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Proposal would cut illegal immigrants from Basic Health Plan

Undocumented immigrants would lose state medical coverage under a proposal to save the popular Basic Health insurance program. The get-tough measure is part of a budget-cutting plan unveiled by the State Senate. But it's at odds with a competing approach in the House.

Background on recent Basic Health politics

Governor Chris Gregoire proposed last fall to eliminate the Basic Health Plan with 55,000 members. House Democrats followed up with their own scheme to solicit private funds to keep it going until national health care kicks-in in 2014.

But Democrats in the State Senate didn't think that was a viable option. So they've agreed to an idea Republicans have been pushing: stricter requirements to stay in the program.

Senate Budget Chair Ed Murray, a Seattle Democrat, says that includes Social Security checks in an effort to remove illegal immigrants from Basic Health:

"We freeze it and we put in an eligibility test in place and that will shrink it significantly over time."

Lawmakers are tackling two shortfalls at the same time: a half billion dollar gap in the current budget and a nearly $5 billion hole over the next two years.

Update: February 4, 2011

A clarification to this story:

The House Democrats’ budget would eliminate state funding for the Basic Health Plan. The Senate Democrats’ proposal would preserve funding, but at a lower level. Also, both bills would remove undocumented workers from the Basic Health Plan.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.