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Jim M.
Democrat WA 7

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  • Expatriate Health Coverage Clarification Act of 2014

    by Representative Jim McDermott

    Posted on 2014-04-09

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    McDERMOTT. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

    The Republicans have branded this bill as clarification. But what demands clarification is the cold, hard fact that this legislation is a bailout for insurance companies.

    This has never had a hearing in the House. It has never been discussed. We have never had witnesses. No regular order whatsoever. This appeared out of nowhere.

    This bill, pure and simple, is a case of Republicans seeking special treatment for certain insurance companies who would like nothing more than to avoid the responsibilities under the law and sell inferior insurance policies to Americans and foreign workers and their families in the United States, which is exactly why the American people are fortunate to have the ACA as the law of the land.

    It is currently protecting them from these kinds of intolerable insurance company practices.

    Republicans have focused on coming out against bailouts for insurance companies in several other ACA contexts, but it is all sound and fury because it means nothing.

    With this legislation, however, Republicans want a bailout for a few insurance companies that sell so-called expatriate coverage. But why should this situation be any different? Why do the Republicans get to pick and choose? As the Republicans are now in the business of picking and choosing winners in this case, the losers are going to be the patients.

    Republicans claim this bill is a simple fix intended to clarify the ACA when it comes to expatriate coverage, and perhaps there is a need for that. Perhaps there is a need. We might have found it out if we had had one hearing.

    The current guidance defines individuals under expat plans as those who are out of the country for at least 6 months during the year. The theory is that the people are gone more than they are here.

    But this bill overrides current regulations and ignores the comments given by the administration to define a covered individual, and it does it and says, you are an expat if you are out of the country for as few as 90 days, or 15 trips.

    Now, I don't know how many people in Seattle make 15 trips out of the country in a year when they are working for Boeing or working for Microsoft or all the international companies. I have got those people in my district.

    This means that to serve people who move across the border daily, or frequent fliers for work, they would be exempt from the enrollees who are gone for only a few weeks.

    In addition, the legislation says that all foreigners who are living and working in the United States but are outside their own country for 90 days or 15 trips can also be covered by these plans.

    [[Page H3069]] As a result, the provisions of this bill would severely undermine current H1B visa requirements that level the playing field with American workers. If you are bringing people in from the outside and they go home, or they are gone for only 90 days, well, you can somehow pay them less.

    This legislation will open the door for U.S. employers who wish to avoid the ACA to hire foreign workers rather than American citizens. That is why the United Farm Workers are against this bill.

    The United Farm Workers do a pretty good job of clarifying this bill when they say ``Congress should not pass laws that create an economic incentive to hire guest workers over professional U.S. agricultural workers.'' The AFL-CIO is against this bill because it would undermine the health security of 13 million green card holders, people with work visas, and individuals who are granted visas for humanitarian reasons.

    {time} 1245 The National Immigration Law Center is against this bill because it eliminates minimum essential standards for ``expatriate health insurance plans provided to individuals who travel abroad.'' As a result, this bill would deny health coverage security for low-wage immigrant workers, including farm workers and caregivers.

    This bill contains too many loopholes that amount to an extraordinary bailout for insurance companies. This bill also establishes a precedent for employers to hire guest workers. It is being brought here as a suspension bill with no opportunity to amend it. It might be that we could make it a better bill if it had been through the process, but it is being rammed through here by insurance companies who want to get a benefit.

    This bill is yet another attempt on the part of the Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act. They want to drill another hole in the bottom of the bill. They are going to keep drilling holes--trying--this is number 53.

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