The Obama administration has dragged its feet on revoking Obamacare coverage for people who can’t prove U.S. citizenship or legal residency, allowing some of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. to continue enjoying taxpayer-funded benefits, a Republican senator charged Monday.
“The Obama administration is bending over backwards to give Obamacare to illegal immigrants but won’t protect hardworking American citizens who are losing their health care coverage,” said Sen. David Vitter, Louisiana Republican and an outspoken critic of President Obama’s health care law.
“The Obama administration has been granting deadline extensions, making excuses and turning a blind eye to falsified documents by illegal immigrants,” he said. “Enough is enough, and they need to provide answers to why they think illegal immigrants should be eligible for Obamacare.”
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees the health care program, disputed Mr. Vitter’s claims.
The Obamacare law specifically excluded illegal immigrants. But the administration’s effort to verify immigration status of applicants for the law’s state-based health insurance exchanges has lasted well beyond the March 31 deadline to sign up for coverage.
Nearly 1 million people who signed up but had what the administration called “immigration data-matching issues” have been given six months to produce immigration documents while still covered, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The administration also has promised to make illegal immigrants repay the government for Obamacare benefits they redeemed during the extended document check.
In a letter to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner, Mr. Vitter demanded answers about how the agency verifies immigration status and what steps are taken to force illegal immigrants to repay the government.
He questioned the agency’s failure to set a firm date for sending cancellation notices to those who fail to produce immigration or residency documents by the established Sept. 5 deadline and the special 60-day extended enrollment period for those who miss the deadline.
CMS spokesman Aaron Albright told The Washington Times that the administration had made significant progress verifying immigration documents and sent cancellation notices last week to people who hadn’t produced documents.
“We are committed to assisting consumers and protecting taxpayers by helping to ensure those who are enrolled in Marketplace coverage meet the eligibility requirements,” said Mr. Albright. “CMS did not give individuals who did not respond to our final warning notice an additional 60 days to respond. As we announced two weeks ago, 115,000 people who did not respond to our many contacts and still did not submit information have received a letter stating that their last day of Marketplace coverage is Sept. 30.”
Those who submit information that confirms their eligibility after the deadline may be able to apply for coverage during a special enrollment period, accordion to CMS.
Mr. Albright cited a CMS report that indicated the agency had “received hundreds of thousands of documents” before the Sept. 5 deadline that decreased the number of cases from 966,000 at the end of May to 115,000 as of Sept. 14.
“To date, 115,000 individuals with citizenship and immigration data-matching issues have not responded to our numerous contacts and will be receiving notices saying their last day of federal marketplace coverage is September 30, 2014,” said the report.
Mr. Vitter stood by his demand for answers from Ms. Tavenner about how the immigration issues are being resolved, the senator’s spokeswoman said.
The senator said the vast number of people who managed to enroll and receive benefits despite lacking immigration or residency documents points to a larger problem in the system.
“It is critical as the administration moves forward into Obamacare’s second enrollment period that CMS dramatically improves the verification process in determining eligibility for taxpayer-funded subsidies,” he wrote to Ms. Tavenner.
“Last year was nothing short of a disaster, and as a result, the administration continues to bend the rules for people who did not comply with the law in the first place, with an exorbitant cost to the U.S. taxpayer. With millions of Americans losing their plans on the individual market and potentially millions more losing insurance on the small-group markets in 2015, CMS has a responsibility to correctly issue credits to eligible Americans,” Mr. Vitter wrote.