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Rep. Ed Royce

Obamacare’s Latest Side Effect: Subsidizing Foreign Diplomats’ Health Care

You probably don’t know it, but you could be subsidizing the health care costs of foreign diplomats. That is, the many thousands of foreign officials who represent their countries in Washington, New York and elsewhere. Buried in Obamacare, the U.S. Tax Code now permits foreign diplomats serving throughout the United States and at the United Nations to receive premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions for Obamacare plans. Worse yet, the State Department is actually encouraging Foreign Missions and U.N. staff to take advantage of this benefit, advertising this perk

On Monday, House Ways & Means Chairman Paul Ryan and I introduced the No Healthcare Subsidies for Foreign Diplomats Act of 2015, legislation to halt this taxpayer abuse. This legislation includes calling on Secretary of State John Kerry to tell foreign diplomats that their days of health care subsidies are over.

This legislation comes after a year-long investigation by the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Ways & Means Committee. It began with reports that federal law enforcement officials arrested 25 Russian diplomats and their spouses in December 2013 for attempting to defraud our Medicaid system. We had many questions about their arrest. Were these individuals truly eligible to receive Medicaid? What other government benefits were they entitled to receive?

American diplomats working overseas do not depend on foreign taxpayers for health care coverage; they pay for their own health insurance by purchasing plans that provide overseas coverage. Foreign governments should cover the health care costs of the diplomats they send to the U.S., and it should not be a bill that American taxpayers are forced to pay.

Our year-long investigation involved persistent questioning of the Department of Health and Human Services, State Department, Justice Department, and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The Justice Department refused to share any details about the arrests. The State Department pointed its finger at HHS – the agency that administers Obamacare. After many months of pressing, HHS finally coughed up the details of this taxpayer-funded entitlement.

Naturally, we wondered how many individuals were receiving this benefit. Unfortunately, the State Department, HHS, and the Internal Revenue Service could not tell us. Why? Because they do not track the visa status of non-citizens who file tax returns. This revelation, in and of itself, is stunning. I don’t care if it’s a single diplomat. They should pay their own way.

Given the Obama Administration’s track record on Obamacare, we were shocked but not surprised by this lack of transparency and accountability. Five years after its passage, we are still discovering how ill-conceived and mismanaged this law is. Nancy Pelosi was right – she had to pass the law so the rest of us could find out what was in it. We found foreign diplomats.

While the House works to fully repeal Obamacare, Chairman Ryan and I have decided to end this particular entitlement now before it gets any worse. Our bill is commonsense legislation that Republicans and Democrats should support.

Foreign diplomats do important work in the U.S. Our strongest allies, like Britain and Israel, have active official delegations in Washington, working to improve our important relationships. But American taxpayers should never be footing their health bills.