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Obamacare Covers Foreign Diplomats

Two House committees are demanding answers after learning that the Affordable Care Act makes foreign diplomats eligible for health care subsidies.

10.29.14 7:20 PM ET

Obamacare has a loophole that allows foreign diplomats to receive healthcare subsidies, the House Ways and Means and Foreign Affairs Committees revealed Wednesday as they announced a joint investigation.

“According to the Department of Health and Human Services, foreign diplomats holding ‘A’ or ‘G’ visas are eligible to participate in an array of medical programs administered by the federal government, including participation in Health Insurance Marketplaces governed by the Affordable Care Act (ACA),” wrote chairmen Ed Royce and Dave Camp in a letter to to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

“The Secretary of Health and Human Services has informed the Committee on Foreign Affairs that, if they meet basic ACA requirements, ‘a foreign diplomat could satisfy the statutory criteria to be eligible for a premium tax credit and cost-sharing reductions.”

Several key pieces of information remain to be discovered: how many diplomats have received these subsidies, if any; and how much this has cost the American government. To this end, the chairmen of the two committees are asking (PDF) the IRS for answers.

“Many Americans would be surprised to learn that their tax dollars may be subsidizing health coverage for foreign diplomats,” wrote Royce and Camp. “We are seeking to determine how many such individuals participate in these programs and the total cost of such benefits.”

The existence of the loophole itself is noteworthy, Republicans argue, and say taxpayers shouldn’t be held responsible for subsidizing the health costs of foreign diplomats.

“We fully support the ability of foreign diplomats to purchase health care coverage in the United States. We do not, however, believe that American taxpayers should subsidize these services,” the letter continues.

The Department of Health and Human Services has informed the House Foreign Affairs Committee that “a foreign diplomat could satisfy the statutory criteria to be eligible for a premium tax credit and cost-sharing reductions.”

And the State Department has circulated notices to foreign diplomats that inform them about Obamacare and note that “the benefits of the United States Affordable Care Act are available” to them.

The State Department has already told House Foreign Affairs Committee investigators that it did not keep data on how many foreign diplomats “obtain government-funded benefits.” Similarly, the Department of Health and Human Services could not provide investigators with that information.

Investigators from the House Foreign Affairs and Ways and Means Committees said they wanted information from the IRS on the foreign diplomats that have received premium tax credits or cost-sharing reductions under the Affordable Care Act, as well its associated costs, by Nov. 12.

The investigation stems from Dec. 2013 charges that 25 Russian diplomats allegedly tried to obtain fraudulent Medicaid benefits.