Trump backs individual health insurance mandate—but only for foreigners

President Donald Trump this week endorsed an immigration bill that would require foreigners to get health insurance as a prerequisite for a new nonimmigrant visa classification.

That’s right, the guy who has been fighting to repeal the individual mandate established under Obamacare now wants to make health insurance a requirement for certain foreigners to live here legally.

After all, what could be more American than having mandatory health insurance, right Republicans?

The bill, known on formal occasions as the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act, seeks to gut our country’s family-based immigration system by eliminating green card eligibility for the parents of adult U.S. citizens. It would end what Republicans call “unfettered chain migration” by making it impossible for naturalized U.S. citizens to sponsor green cards for their foreign-born parents. Lo siento, mamá y papá.

Instead of green cards, foreign-born parents of adult U.S. citizens would have to apply for a new nonimmigrant visa, which would allow them to remain in the country legally for up to five years. But to get the visa, they first would need to prove they have U.S. health insurance—and it would be up to their kids to pay for it.

The bill reads:

An alien is ineligible to receive a visa or to be admitted into the United States as a nonimmigrant described in section 101(a)(15)(W) unless the alien provides satisfactory proof that the United States citizen son or daughter has arranged for health insurance coverage for the alien, at no cost to the alien, during the anticipated period of the alien’s residence in the United States.

This is not the first time that an individual health insurance mandate has been tacked onto a nonimmigrant visa application. For example, foreign students who come to the U.S. under the J-1 student visa are also required to have health insurance. It’s a way of ensuring that foreigners don’t access government health care subsidies and aren’t a burden to limited public resources.

Still, the irony of Trump and the Republican backers insisting on an individual mandate as a way of addressing health care resource problems is pretty rich, even in the era when irony is king.

To be fair to Trump, there’s no reason to believe that he understands any of this or actually read through the immigration bill before endorsing it. His support for the health insurance mandate for foreigners could be entirely accidental. The provision itself is tucked into the last page of the bill, most of which reads like a garble of legalese redactions and line-edits.

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But consider this for a moment: Had the Republicans been able to pass the “skinny bill” repeal of Obamacare last month, they would have effectively eliminated the individual mandate for U.S. citizens and green card holders at the same time they were pushing for a new individual mandate for a sizable group of nonimmigrant foreigners. That would have created a possible scenario in some households where visiting foreign parents would have had better access to affordable health care in the United States than their uninsured U.S. citizen children.

And that’s how you Make America Great Again.

Tune-in to next Tuesday’s Feed for more on Trump’s not-so-new immigration plan.