A Senate report estimated that $750 million in Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidies were given to individuals with an unclear legal status. The report criticized this oversight as a “pay and chase” waste of taxpayer money.
The Republicans on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, during an investigation of the 2015 ACA tax credits used to offset insurance premiums, found evidence that undocumented immigrants had benefited from the credits, Fox News reports.
The report stated that “... the Administration awarded approximately $750 million in tax credits on behalf of individuals who were later determined to be ineligible because they failed to verify their citizenship, status as a national, or legal presence.”
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) stated that, in 2015, roughly 471,000 ACA customers had not sufficiently proved their citizenship.
“Lack of verification does not mean an individual is ineligible for financial assistance, but only that a Marketplace did not receive sufficient information to verify eligibility in the time period outlined in the law,” said CMS spokesman Aaron Albright.
Currently, the federal government can give tax credits to an individual without confirming their legal status but must follow up on that individual to get the proper paperwork. If this does not happen, then by law that individual must pay the credits back.
A half-million ACA customers have been removed from coverage but the federal government is still in the process of recouping the $750 million spent.
“This ‘pay and chase’ model has potentially cost taxpayers approximately $750 million,” the report said.
Providing Americans with healthcare coverage while avoiding giving taxpayer benefits to undocumented immigrants has posed a challenge for the ACA. The intersection of healthcare and the undocumented has become a polarizing issue in Washington D.C.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has proposed a single-payer health care system that would cover the undocumented, Politico reports.
Whether or not the undocumented have earned their government benefits is also a point of contention. According to a study conducted by the nonpartisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), the undocumented paid $11.84 billion in state and federal taxes in 2012, Latin Post reports.
"The fact is, undocumented immigrants already are paying billions in taxes to state and local governments," said ITEP executive director Matthew Gardner. “And if they are allowed to work in the country legally, their state and local tax contributions will increase significantly."