Wall Street Journal
By Laura Meckler
March 4, 2014
The Obama administration plans program adjustments to stop illegal immigrants from participating in Medicare programs including private managed care and prescription drug plans.
Medicare is already flagged undocumented seniors from claiming benefits through the traditional Medicare program, but similar systems were not in place for the other programs, which are managed by private companies, a senior administration official said Tuesday.
"It's part of a larger effort on programmatic quality, payment accuracy and program integrity," the official said.
The New York Times reported on the change in Tuesday's editions in connection with the release of the administration's budget proposal, though it was put forth in a proposed regulation last month. At the time, it was reported that the administration believes the change could save nearly $70 million from 2015 to 2019.
The improper payment problem was flagged last year by the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services.
The administration has come under heavy fire from immigration advocates for what they see as an overly aggressive deportation policy. But the issue of Medicare payments engenders little of that anger because illegal immigrants have long been ineligible for Medicare, said Marshall Fitz, an immigration expert at the liberal Center for American Progress.
"If you're not eligible you shouldn't be getting it. No one is really arguing otherwise," he said. He noted that a bigger battle is underway over efforts to make illegal immigrants ineligible for a child tax credit.
Meantime, Republicans have argued that the Obama administration is not doing enough to enforce the law generally, and some say it is not doing enough on border security. It's unclear whether the effort on Medicare will ameliorate any of those complaints.
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