Congress is considering a new bill aimed at stopping foreign diplomats stationed in the United States from receiving taxpayer subsidized health coverage benefits under Obamacare, according to a copy of the bill filed Wednesday.
Foreign diplomats and United Nations employees posted in the United States are permitted to receive premium tax credits and other perks paid for by the U.S. taxpayer under a loophole in President Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act.
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The Obama administration confirmed earlier this year that the loophole existed, prompting outrage on Capitol Hill among lawmakers who argue that the U.S. taxpayer should not foot the bill for foreign diplomats’ health care costs.
House lawmakers moved on Wednesday to close the loophole by offering a new bill to designate foreign diplomats as ineligible for tax credits and other cost-sharing reductions under Obamacare, according to a copy of the bill authored by Reps. Ed Royce (R., Calif.) and Dave Camp (R., Mich.)
The legislation would require Health and Human Services (HHS), which oversees implementation of Obamacare, to ensure that no foreign diplomats are receiving such benefits.
It also orders the State Department to notify all foreign missions in the United States that their employees are not permitted to receive taxpayer subsidized healthcare.
The bill comes following a year-long investigation by Royce into the ways in which foreigners are exploiting Obamacare and the U.S. taxpayer.
While the Obamacare loophole has existed for some time, it was only confirmed by the administration after months of back and forth with Royce, who is the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The administration still has yet to reveal just how many foreign diplomats have cashed in on the benefits, as well as how many have enrolled in Obamacare.
The investigation was prompted by the 2013 arrest of 25 Russian diplomats who had attempted to obtain Medicaid benefits illegally.
Royce called it "shockingly unacceptable" for the Obama administration to permit foreign diplomats access to subsidized healthcare.
"After many months of inquiry by the Foreign Affairs Committee, the Obama Administration finally came clean about the fact that foreign diplomats are eligible for taxpayer-funded Obamacare subsidies," Royce said in a statement after the bill was announced. "This is shockingly unacceptable."
"Americans’ tax dollars should not be used to subsidize foreign diplomats’ health coverage," he said. "These foreign governments should cover the healthcare costs of the diplomats they send here."
Camp also dubbed the loophole as "unfair" and said that it just another way in which Obamacare is penalizing average Americans.
"Time and again, the Affordable Care Act has proven to be anything but affordable for taxpayers," said Camp, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. "It is not the responsibility of honest, hardworking Americans to provide health coverage for foreign diplomats, but rather a duty of those nations sending them here. This straightforward legislation will put a stop to this unjust practice."