CMS: Block Illegal Immigrants' Medicaid Collections

Wednesday, 08 Jan 2014 12:52 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn says he's in favor of federal health officials' plans to stop illegal immigrants from collecting Medicare-related benefits.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services wants to block illegal immigrants from collecting benefits through Medicare's prescription drug program or enrolling in the service's Advantage plans, reports The Washington Times.

The move could save nearly $70 million between 2015 to 2019, says CMS in a rule proposed on Monday.

Coburn, saying the agency is making the right move, said that it must also "show they can implement their plans with successful results. They also should take the necessary steps to prevent paying taxpayer dollars to dead doctors, doctors with felonies, or dead patients."

The CMS move throws some confusion into how the Obama administration plans to keep illegal immigrants from collecting benefits. While the president and Democrats have agreed that there should be no Obamacare benefits for illegal immigrants, the IRS still pays them a refundable child tax credit, a policy Republicans have repeatedly called to end.

In December, the Democratic-controlled Senate rejected an amendment from Alabama Republican Jeff sessions that would have closed the loophole that allows immigrants to claim the credit and restore cuts to military pensioners' cost-of-living increases.

The new rule will be part of regulations that formally come out on Friday. CMS also plans to punish doctors and providers who prescribe unnecessary medications or fake prescriptions.

The Medicare and tax credit issues are not the same thing, Marshall Fitz, director of immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, said, noting that the Medicare proposal seems to be a "clean up effort" that doesn't prove "sound policy." Instead, he said, the federal government should legalize illegal immigrants, who could then pay taxes.

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