MALDEF Reluctantly But Emphatically Urges Passage of Healthcare Reform Legislation

March 19, 2010

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, MALDEF President and General Counsel Thomas A. Saenz issued the following statement in response to the historic healthcare vote scheduled for Sunday, March 21st:

“A robust federal legislative process includes opportunities to fix flaws in pending legislation as it moves through the process and those flaws are identified and discussed in debate among the public. This procedural element is particularly important where omnibus legislation is at issue. Regrettably, the current stance of a significant portion of the United States Senate embraces an approach to nearly all legislative matters that arrests this process in an attempt to paralyze our federal legislative system. In the context of health care reform, this development has prevented any ability to amend severe and significant flaws in the pending legislation.

Among the most serious and objectionable of these features of the legislation is the unprecedented and unwarranted verification process applied to unsubsidized, private health insurance. This has the effect of preventing undocumented immigrants and potentially many others from paying for insurance without any assistance from government. This is an extraordinary and unwise government intervention into the private right of contract. This is also a punitive measure completely inappropriate and inexplicable except as what it plainly is – a deplorable bow to the irrational and intolerant discourse that characterizes certain current public discussion around immigration issues.

A second significant problem lies in the failure to eliminate the pre-existing five-year ban on lawful permanent residents' receipt of Medicaid. In the context of a new individual mandate to carry health insurance, this failure to eliminate a law passed under a wholly different health insurance system is cruel and illogical, with dire effects on those working poor who may be prevented from obtaining health care coverage that they need.

These and other significant flaws render the pending health care reform legislation imperfect and objectionable. However, the paralysis in the legislative process prevents our nation from addressing these flaws while still enacting much-needed health care reform. Therefore, in the current context, MALDEF reluctantly but emphatically urges the passage and enactment of the pending health care reform legislation, which will have the much-needed effect of providing health care to millions of currently uninsured Latinos in the United States. After enactment, we will continue to urge legislative and regulatory fixes to ameliorate or eliminate the most troubling flaws in this important legislation.”

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Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund