Obama hides Obamacare subsidies for foreign students, guest workers

Neil Munro | White House Correspondent

President Barack Obama told Americans Friday that federal aid is reserved for citizens, even though his deputies have drafted complex regulations to give taxpayer-funded Obamacare subsidies to foreign students and to millions of guest workers.

He made the misleading claim during a televised roundtable at the second stop of his two-day, two-state tour promoting more aid to students.

“Obviously, when it come to federal grants, loans, support, subsidies, that we provide, those are for our citizens,” Obama told a student questioner from the friendly audience of college professors, administrators and students at the Binghamton University in New York.

“You know, a lot of Americans are having a tough time affording college, as we talked about, so we can’t spread it too thin,” he told the Turkish student, who was asking for aid.

A 1996 law bars foreigners and recent immigrants for most means-tested products.

But the Obamacare system will provide valuable health-care subsidies to many student-workers and foreign guest workers hired for jobs in America.

The costs of this Obamacare subsidy will likely escalate if Washington rewrites current immigration law, because leading House bills would double the inflow of foreign blue-collar workers, professionals, students and agriculture guest workers.

“Most Americans … don’t want their tax dollars subsidizing health insurance premiums for anyone just visiting, studying or temporarily working in our country,” Rep. Jim Gerlach said in a statement to The Daily Caller.

“We keep finding examples almost every day of how this law is going to result in Americans working fewer hours and taking home less pay while still leaving 30 million people uninsured,” said Gerlach, a Pennsylvania Republican.

“The entire law needs to be repealed and replaced,” he said.

Companies are already being subsidized by the influx of lower-wage guest workers, and the Obamacare subsidy allow further reductions in guest workers’ wages, said Mark Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration Studies.

“As this guest-worker model expands, you’re going to see it used in more and more of the economy,” said Kirkorian, who wants to reduce the inflow of immigrants.

In 2012, the government provided short-term or long-term work visas to roughly 650,000 non-agriculture guest workers, including to roughly 70,000 students at U.S. universities.

The Senate immigration bill, if it becomes law, would double the inflow to roughly 1.2 million workers per year year, according to data provided by Krikorian’s group.

The Senate bill would also double immigration and provide a staged amnesty to roughly 11 million illegal immigrants. Overall, the bill would increase immigration into the United States to 46 million by 2033, even though roughly 20 million Americans are already unemployed or underemployed.

Guest workers have long comprised a large slice of the workforce in some high-tech sectors.

The pending immigration bills would likely expand companies’ growing use of guest workers in non-tech jobs. Already, Goldman Sachs is hiring foreign financial analysts; CVS and Rite-Aid are hiring foreign pharmacists; schools and universities are hiring foreign teachers and professors; health-care companies are hiring foreign doctors and therapists, while other companies are hiring marketing experts, graphics designers, managers, accountants, auditors and many other professionals.

Polls suggest the large-scale outsourcing is unpopular.

Obamacare is also unpopular, according to polls.

No poll has asked Americans if they support the award of Obamacare subsidies to guest workers in outsourced jobs.

The offer of subsidies to guest workers could have a large impact on blue-collar and white-collar professionals, said Krikorian. Guest workers are usually paid less than what Americans earn in equivalent jobs, and there are minimal rules to prevent employers from replacing Americans with guest workers, he said.

Administration officials are reluctant to acknowledge the increased inflow of guest workers, or the provision of taxpayers’ subsidies to the guest-workers.

The nearest acknowledgment of the guest-worker subsidy came during an Aug. 1 hearing, from Gary Cohen, the deputy administrator and director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, at the Department of Health and Human Services.

To get the Obamacare subsidies, “you have to be a citizen or lawfully-present,” Cohen told Gerlach, without mentioning guest workers.

“You could be here on a student visa and be eligible,” he said, two-and-a-half hours into the hearing, without mentioning guest workers.

But sections found deep in draft Obamacare regulations clearly show the guest workers are eligible.

Obamacare is open to people who have “non-immigrant Status (includes worker visas, student visas, and citizens of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau),” according to a sentence buried on page 20 of the 21-page rule for Obamacare insurance and subsidies.

A draft regulation issued in January also mapped out a regulatory path allowing the subsidies for guest workers.

“We propose in paragraph (2) to include all non-immigrants who have a valid status. … This allows coverage to non-immigrants who have valid and unexpired status … [such as people] … granted employment authorization under 8 CFR 274a.12(c),” says one critical Obamacare document, found at the CMS website.

In turn, the 8 CFR 274a.12(c) says that “employment authorization” is granted to several types of guest-working that hold specific visas, including a “nonimmigrant treaty trader (E-1) … a nonimmigrant (F-1) student … a temporary worker or trainee (H-1, H-2A, H-2B, or H-3), pursuant to § 214.2(h) of this chapter … an information media representative (I) … an exchange visitor (J-1) … an intra-company transferee (L-1).”

In turn, § 214.2(h) details the “temporary worker” category to include several other visa classifications.

Officials at CMS and the IRS declined to comment for this story.

The inclusion of guest workers in the Obamacare subsidies is widely recognized by progressives.

“Access to subsidized coverage will also expand under the ACA for non-elderly lawfully residing immigrants with incomes below 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level who have been in the country five years or less. … Unauthorized immigrants will not be eligible for Medicaid or CHIP coverage or for exchange subsidies under the ACA and will not be permitted to purchase unsubsidized coverage through the exchange,” concluded an April 2012 study prepared for the Department of Health and Human Services by the Urban Institute.

“If they are not able to get health insurance through their employer, people granted H or W [guest-worker] visas under the Senate bill will be considered ‘lawfully present’ … will be eligible to buy health insurance in the new insurance marketplaces and apply for ACA-related subsidies,” says a July 8 statement by the National Immigration Law Center, an advocacy group seeking greater immigration.

This access to Obamacare is an exception, because the 1996 law excludes most guest workers from means-tested welfare, such as Medicaid, said NILC.

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