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House GOP pushing health insurance mandate for illegal immigrants

WASHINGTON — Conservatives have frequently railed against Obamacare’s individual health insurance mandate, but in an unexpected twist, a group of Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives is now floating the idea of imposing that same mandate on illegal immigrants.

Whether or not the government should subsidize health insurance for immigrants seeking citizenship has been one of the sticking points during immigration reform negotiations. Under a tentative agreement reported by Politico, “immigrants who are in the United States illegally would need to buy their own insurance, and if they accept government subsidized care, they’re out of the country. Republicans agreed to exempt emergency care.”

But a handful of Republicans have now taken it a step further by seeking to mandate immigrants seeking citizenship purchase health insurance.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R - FL)

“We’re dealing with a very specific circumstance and a very specific group of folks,” Florida Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a member of the House immigration reform group, told Politico on Tuesday. “There are going to be requirements that are not required for everyone else.”

The proposal has already drawn criticism from the Libertarian-leaning think tank, the Cato Institute.

“It’s totally reasonable to make sure you don’t expand the welfare state, but there’s no need to do that by imposing a discredited, Obama-style individual mandate,” Cato Institute immigration policy analyst Alex Nowrasteh said. “I think it’s such a glaring and obvious contradiction that they’ll have to drop it.”

Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions has been a leading voice against the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” immigration reform plan. A spokesman for Sessions told Yellowhammer Wednesday that he has no comment on the individual mandate as of right now.

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