Rep. Ken Buck tries to stop Colorado from expanding health care access to undocumented residents
Buck’s bill is in “direct response” to the approval of the waiver.
“Instead of using Section 1332 waivers as originally intended, to give states the flexibility to implement innovative healthcare solutions, Democrats are using the waiver program to make federally funded health insurance a reality for illegal aliens,” Buck said in a statement. “It’s a slap in the face for American taxpayers who are getting up, going to work, and fighting to survive amid 9.1% bidenflation.”
Buck’s office did not make him available for an interview in time for this story.
Polis and immigrant health experts say bills like Buck’s only drive up costs in the long run
A spokesman for Governor Jared Polis said Buck’s bill would increase insurance costs for Coloradans.
“The Colorado Option will save Colorados between 3 and 19 percent on health care at a time when people need more money in their pockets and expand access to quality care, especially in the Rural Colorado,” said Conor Cahill, Polis press secretary. “This flawed federal bill is simply reckless and it’s disappointing to see Colorado’s own Rep trying to stop Colorados from saving money when he should be doing everything in his power to defend our state.”
While states are generally prohibited from using federal funds to pay for health coverage for undocumented immigrants, some have found workarounds, said Drishti Pillai, director of immigrant health policy at the Kaiser Family. Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on health issues.
For example, California was able to claw back federal funds that would have been provided for emergency spending when it extended health insurance to undocumented young adults.
Not giving undocumented migrants access to health insurance, she said, results in “uncompensated care costs, because at that point a person will go without necessary care or have to report to the emergency room…which leads to higher costs in the long run.”
Through the Section 1332 waiver, Colorado will receive an estimated $135 million in federal funding to expand access to health insurance, including increasing subsidies to cover premiums.
“For me, health care remains a basic human right”
One of the sponsors of the Colorado Option Act, Democratic State Rep. Iman Jodeh, said the goal of the Colorado Option is to provide health care to Colorans regardless of status. legal. She is not surprised by Buck’s bill.
“Passing a law like this at the federal level would just open the doors to a cascading event of very bad policies that would affect health care and insurance in Colorado,” she said.
She described the Colorado option as “model legislation” and said Buck’s bill is based on a “radical right” minority, not a reflection of what Americans want to see for the country.
“To me, health care remains a basic human right and it should never be decided based on the color of your skin, your zip code and certainly not your residency status,” she said.
This isn’t the first time Buck has crossed horns with state policy on services for the undocumented population.
He reintroduced a bill in Congress, which Lamborn is also a co-sponsor, that would withhold certain federal subsidies from states that issue driver’s licenses to undocumented people like Colorado does.
According to the Migration Policy Institute, there are an estimated 162,000 undocumented people in Colorado, of whom about 59% are uninsured.
The state has taken a number of steps in recent years to help unauthorized residents access health care.