At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today on the "Gang of 8's" immigration bill, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) acknowledged that the issue of healthcare is "not totally resolved" for employers in the current bill, and he believes it can be addressed, but could be wrong.
"Senator Grassley, under the health care reform act, the creation of the insurance exchanges, in an effort to bring more people into insured coverage, that clearly was our goal in those of us who voted for it. Under this bill, and I was just checking with the staff, there is an ambiguity and you've identified it," Durbin said.
"These RPI (Registered Provisional Immigrant) workers will not be entitled to the subsidy under the health care reform act, so they're not getting a special helping hand for health insurance. It's my understanding they can purchase it without subsidy - that is their right. You've asked the right question, though."
He continues: "So what impact does that have on their employer? If the employer were dealing with just employees coming in, there are certain standards about health insurance that's offered to the employees, how many have to be covered, whether they're full-time or part-time, and so forth - and a penalty if the employer fails to meet the requirements of the health care reform act.
"I've asked the staff and I said, "Is this even something that we can resolve in this legislation?' She believes, really, it's a matter that has to be resolved in the health care reform act as to what the ultimate impact will be. So, I will concede that this is an issue which is not totally resolved at this moment as we meet. That is my impression."
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) followed up by asking if this is something the group intends to fix. Durbin concedes the issue is out of their jurisdiction and instead falls on the Finance Committee to deal with.
Grassley asked: "When you say it's unresolved at this point and an ambiguity, did your answer say that you're continuing to work on this an intend to do something on it before the bill gets through the Senate, or is it that it can't even be handled in this context?"
"No, I believe it can, and I may be wrong. It is a Finance Committee jurisdiction issue and so it wouldn't be in the Judiciary Committee," Durbin responded.