- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 6, 2014

President Obama assured the Hispanic community on Thursday that personal information entered into Obamacare’s web system will not be used to root out illegal immigrants for deportation.

“None of the information that is provided in order for you to obtain health insurance is in any way transferred to immigration services,” he told a town hall-style broadcast.

Mr. Obama said undocumented residents are not eligible for government-run health benefits or subsidized coverage under his signature law. 

The law’s data hub does check enrollees’ information against various agencies, including those for immigration, to make sure the enrollee is eligible for benefits.

But families of mixed immigration status are avoiding the new health care law, prompting Spanish-language hosts to seek assurance from Mr. Obama.

The president said he could “absolutely” assure the community that signing up will not result in the deportation of a family member.

“You should feel confident that if someone in your family is eligible, you should sign them up,” Mr. Obama said. 

Hoping to ingratiate himself with Hispanic voters, Mr. Obama touted himself as “champion in chief” of immigration reform, as House Republicans decide whether to take up reforms passed by the Democratic-run Senate in an election year.

Thursday’s town hall was part of the administration’s push to get segments of the population — young people, women and minorities among them — to apply for health insurance on state-based Obamacare exchanges with less than a month left to sign up. The law’s open enrollment period began Oct. 1 and ends on March 31.

Mr. Obama said one in four uninsured Americans is Hispanic.

Last month, the Health and Human Services Department recently said eight in 10 Hispanics may qualify for government-funded health insurance or financial assistance to pay for private plans on Obamacare markets.

That percentage would jump to 95 percent if every state decided to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, the agency said.

Hannah Gravette, a community organizer who promotes Obamacare at churches near San Diego, told the Washington Times in December that mixed immigration status within families was a key barrier to enrollment among the Hispanic population, because they didn’t want to put their relatives on the government’s radar.

The church setting helped her get around that distrust, and Mr. Obama’s new assurances may or may not convince Hispanics to take a closer look at the Obamacare system.

Mr. Obama called out GOP governors in Texas and Florida, specifically — states with high populations of both Hispanics and the uninsured — for declining to expand the program to people making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

“Because we know that would work, and that’s a decision they could make right now, ” he said.

Republican critics of the law say the federal government cannot be trusted to pay for 100 percent of the expanded population in 2014-2016 and pony up 90 percent by 2020 and beyond, as envisioned in the law. Plus, they say, their share of the state-federal entitlement is already busting their budgets.

In Thursday’s town hall, Mr. Obama characterized this week’s decision to let people keep bare-bones plans for another two years, even if the plans do not comply with Obamacare’s higher standards, as part of a “smoothing” out process that large reforms need, although he said his administration will enforce the “individual mandate” that requires people to obtain insurance if they can afford it.

The House voted Wednesday to delay the mandate’s penalties by one year, but the bill is unlikely to pass the Senate.

Mr. Obama also called on people to look at HealthCare.gov now instead of overloading the website’s capacity at the last minute.

“Start now, start today,” Mr. Obama said.

The town hall was hosted by Univision, Telemundo, impreMedia and the California Endowment.


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