No business would give a refund without first verifying a receipt. Our government should be held to the same standard. Yet, under current law, the Treasury Department pays health care tax credits to individuals without first verifying that they legally qualify to receive them.

This is wrong. And it has cost taxpayers nearly a billion dollars.

To address this problem, I introduced the Verify First Act. My bill would stop fraud in the distribution of health care tax credits and protect taxpayer dollars by verifying a person’s eligibility for health care tax credits before they can receive those benefits.

I’m happy to report that, on June 13, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Verify First Act by a bipartisan vote. My bill is now in the Senate for consideration.

One of the biggest concerns I hear about from my constituents is the wasteful mismanagement of taxpayer money by bureaucrats in Washington. No one should be allowed to game the system at the taxpayer’s expense.

Unfortunately, this is exactly what is happening under Obamacare, which has allowed half a million people to fraudulently collect nearly a billion dollars in taxpayer-funded health care tax credits.

The American people expect that we are already verifying that someone qualifies for taxpayer money before that money goes out the door. My bill reinforces that, when it comes to taxpayer money, everyone should play by the same rules. Hardworking taxpayers and families should not have to pay for the health expenses of someone who broke the law and has no right to federal dollars.

The Verify First Act addresses a fundamental problem with Obamacare that has significantly increased costs to taxpayers: The law lacks sufficient safeguards for verifying whether or not an individual applying for health care tax credits is legally eligible to receive them.

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.

“Pay and chase” 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, many of whom could not verify their citizenship, status as a national, or legal presence in the United States.

I first raised this issue last year with the previous administration. I raised 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.

Given my concern about this abuse of taxpayer dollars, I met with President Donald J. Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan leading up to the House vote on the American Health Care Act and received assurances from the speaker that the House would vote on my bill.

The Verify First Act simply requires 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.

My bill does not change which applicants must provide documentation to verify that they are entitled to Advanced Premium Tax Credits. In accordance with current law, the Verify First Act requires the Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security to verify all applicants for health care tax credits. My bill simply requires verification to occur before money goes out the door.

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. 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 an individual’s legal status first before giving them a tax credit.

The American people are already struggling to keep up with the increasing cost of health care. They should not have to subsidize health care for individuals who commit fraud. My bill would close this expensive loophole in our health care system and finally put the American taxpayer first.

U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Hazleton, represents the 11th Congressional District.

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