House Passes Barletta’s Verify First Act
Click here to watch video of Barletta's floor remarks on the Verify First Act.
WASHINGTON – The U.S. House of Representatives today passed legislation introduced by Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11) to stop fraud in the distribution of health care tax credits and protect taxpayer dollars. Barletta’s Verify First Act, H.R. 2581, prevents waste, fraud, and abuse by verifying a person’s eligibility for health care tax credits before they can receive those benefits. The bill passed by a bipartisan vote of 238-184 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.
“Every taxpayer dollar that goes to someone committing fraud is a dollar that is not going to help working families and those who truly need and deserve assistance,” Barletta said. “My bill would fix this problem by verifying that an individual is legally entitled to taxpayer-funded benefits before those dollars go out the door.”
Under Obamacare, the federal government pays the Advanced Premium Tax Credits to people before first verifying that they qualify to receive those benefits. If individuals cannot verify their legal immigration status, the Internal Revenue Service is forced to chase after the money.
This “pay and chase” model of distributing tax credits has significantly increased costs to taxpayers. In fact, a 2016 Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs report revealed that, under Obamacare, $750 million in taxpayer-funded health care subsidies went to more than 500,000 people who did not qualify for those benefits.
Barletta’s bill would address this problem by simply requiring the Social Security Administration, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Health and Human Services to work together to verify first that an individual is a citizen, national, or legal immigrant before giving that individual the advanced health insurance premium tax credit.
“The American people expect that we are already doing this,” Barletta said. “No business would give a refund without first verifying a receipt. The federal government should be held to the same standard.”
Concerned about abuse of taxpayer dollars as Congress considered the American Health Care Act (AHCA), Barletta was able to secure a guarantee from President Donald J. Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan that the House would vote on the Verify First Act. The bill is part of the multi-step process Congress is working through to repeal and replace Obamacare.
“I first raised this issue last year with the previous administration, and I am raising it again because there is no evidence that anything has been done to address it,” Barletta said. Nobody wanted to take responsibility for mismanaging $750 million of taxpayer money. Everyone pointed fingers at other people. My bill holds people accountable.”
Consistent with current law, the Verify First Act requires the Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security to verify the eligibility of all applicants for Advance Premium Tax Credits. Barletta’s bill simply requires verification to occur before money goes out the door.
The bill also includes protections to ensure that individuals who are legally entitled to these tax credits are not penalized if there is a delay in verifying their documents.
NumbersUSA, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, Americans for Tax Reform, and Citizens Against Government Waste endorsed Barletta’s bill.
Additionally, the president issued a Statement of Administration Policy noting that he would sign Barletta’s bill into law.
Below is the text of Barletta’s floor remarks during consideration of the Verify First Act:
Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding and working with me on this issue.
I also thank leadership for recognizing this issue and working with me to fix the problem.
I’m proud to rise today in support of my bill, H.R. 2581, the Verify First Act.
My bill is intended to stop fraud in the distribution of health care tax credits and protect taxpayer dollars.
It’s simple: The American people expect that we are verifying that someone qualifies for taxpayer money before that money goes out the door.
This is about the federal government being good stewards of the money our constituents send to Washington.
Every federal dollar that goes to someone committing fraud is a dollar that is not going to a person who truly needs and deserves assistance.
No one should be allowed to commit fraud at the taxpayer’s expense.
No business would give a refund without first verifying a receipt.
Yet, this is exactly what is happening under our current health care system.
The law claims that taxpayer money will only go to people who qualify for it, yet no one is being held responsible for making sure that happens.
My bill does that.
Under current law, the federal government pays tax credits to individuals without first verifying that they qualify to receive them.
If individuals cannot verify their legal status, the IRS is then forced to chase after the money.
This “pay and chase” model of distributing tax credits has greatly increased costs to taxpayers.
A 2016 Senate report revealed that, under Obamacare, $750 million in taxpayer-funded health care subsidies went to people who did not qualify for those benefits.
We can fix this problem – and save time and money so that IRS agents are helping people instead of trying to recover improper payments – by verifying legal status first.
My bill simply requires the IRS to work with the relevant federal agencies to verify that an individual is a citizen, national, or lawfully present in the United States before tax credits go out the door.
This can be done by verifying an applicant’s Social Security number or other immigration documents.
Again, the American people expect that we are already doing this.
Under my bill, everyone who applies for the Advanced Premium Tax Credit will be verified for legal status.
Most people won’t even know this is happening because the verification check is so quick.
My bill also includes protections to ensure that individuals who are legally entitled to these tax credits are not penalized if there is a delay in verifying their documents.
I first raised this issue last year with the previous administration.
I am raising it again this year because there is no evidence that anything has been done to address it.
Nobody wanted to take responsibility for mismanaging $750 million of taxpayer money.
Everyone pointed fingers at other people.
My bill holds people accountable.
While I received assurances from the current administration that it would implement and follow a process to verify legal status, my bill would require it in law.
This issue is too important to be left to the changing positions of unelected federal bureaucrats.
The American people deserve to know that their representatives are doing everything in their power to protect taxpayer money.
The Verify First Act provides that certainty and upholds the integrity of the health insurance premium tax credit by putting an end to fraud and abuse.
I thank the co-sponsors of my bill for their support.
Diane Black, Mo Brooks, Jeff Duncan, Jimmy Duncan, Mike Kelly, Doug Lamborn, Mike McCaul, David McKinley, Kristi Noem, Jim Renacci, Mike Rogers, Lamar Smith, Jason Smith, GT Thompson, and Joe Wilson.
I am also including letters of support from NumbersUSA and FAIR, two groups that have been working with me to protect the interests of the American worker and legal immigrants.
Additionally, this legislation is supported by Citizens Against Government Waste and Americans for Tax Reform.
Finally, I am adding to the record that the president has issued a Statement of Administration Policy noting that he would sign this bill into law.
I strongly urge passage of my bill.
I yield back.