At Tuesday’s Senate Finance Committee hearing, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) announced that there are “serious outstanding issues that have yet to be resolved” in Sen. Max Baucus’ (D-MT) bill, particularly when it comes to “the enforcement against subsidies for illegal aliens.” Grassley claimed that the Baucus bill “fails the test in at least three ways”:
First, although the mark appears to require the new exchanges to verify Social Security Numbers [SSNs] and citizenship or legal status, it does not include blocking of Social Security numbers, REAL IDs, verification of address and prior year income, or any other mechanism that verifies identity to prevent identity theft.
Second, it appears to contain privacy protections limiting the use of data collected by exchanges, but it does not allow information sharing with the Internal Revenue Service [IRS] and the Social Security Administration [SSA] to detect and preclude the multiple uses of same Social Security Numbers.
And finally, I would also note that that the designation of Indian tribes as “Express Lane Agency” would allow them to enroll anyone under the age of 22 in Medicaid and CHIP and anyone of any age in an exchange without verification of citizenship. And we have discussed so often in this committee, in the past, the role of Indian tribes in verifying citizenship has been questionable.
Grassley’s first point of criticism is a transparent attempt to derail the health care debate by pivoting to a contentious discussion on the use of REAL ID-compliant licenses and identifications cards. Full compliance with the REAL ID Act is not required until 2017 and most states aren’t anywhere near meeting the deadline. At least 15 states have passed legislation blocking the implementation of REAL ID, others have passed resolutions denouncing it, and there’s currently pending legislation in both the House and Senate that would repeal the REAL ID Act’s driver’s license and identification card provisions. Ultimately, a REAL ID provision would affect US citizens more than immigrants as every single American would be required to obtain a compliant form of national identification and pay for the infrastructure necessary to implement an expensive national ID system.
Grassley isn’t alone in his call for the sharing of information between the SSA and IRS as expressed by his second comment. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) has put together an amendment that would require open-ended “real-time information sharing” between the two agencies and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Yet, there are good reasons why the three agencies operate, for the most part, independently of one another. The Tax Reform Act of 1976 established basic confidentiality protections that require that tax returns and tax return information be held in strictest confidence, with exceptions only being made for criminal cases and instances that involve determining criminal or civil liability.
Nina Olson, the National Taxpayer Advocate of the IRS, has described the confidentiality protections as a right that the IRS must “zealously protect” in order to make “the determination of the correct amount of tax that each U.S. taxpayer must pay.” Tax collection and immigration enforcement efforts are conducted separately “in order to make sure that everyone who earns income within our borders pays the proper amount of taxes,” regardless of their immigration status.
Grassley’s last critique is illogical. He may as well openly suggest that there are young undocumented immigrants who have infiltrated tightly-knit Indian tribes and are posing as Native Americans in order to apply for public benefits. Ultimately, Grassley’s concerns aren’t grounded in reality. Undocumented immigrants use phony and stolen SSNs to work, not to collect benefits.
It’s highly unlikely that they’ll put their livelihood at risk to receive health care coverage. It’s far more reasonable to suggest that the agencies administering the exchange track and share information amongst themselves so they can investigate any instances in which the exchanges receive multiple applications under a single SSN.
Grassley also named “tax-payer funded abortions” as another “unresolved issue.”
Republished with permission from the Wonk Room/Think Progress