Sen. Menendez: Undocumented Immigrants Should Be Able to Buy Insurance Through Exchange

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: The handling of immigrants -- both legal and illegal -- has threatened to snag Democrats’ health care reform efforts at several junctures this year.

And on’s “Top Line” today, Sen. Robert Menendez, a member of Senate Democratic leadership, said he’s still not satisfied with the way the Senate health care bill handles undocumented immigrants.

“In my view, if they use their own money to purchase insurance without any taxpayer subsidy, it would make a lot of sense,” Menendez said, adding that when uninsured people use an emergency room, that becomes “a public charge that we would all pay for.”

Menendez, D-N.J., said undocumented immigrants should be able to “use their own money to pay for an insurance [plan] under the exchange, but to be able to do so however and not receive any subsidy towards it.”

“The Senate bill doesn’t allow that,” he added. “The Senate bill says that if you are a legal permanent resident, someone who came to this country -- claimed by someone else and are here in a legal status as a US permanent resident -- that you if you qualify, [you] could have access to the subsidy. There’s a difference between that person who comes in legally and is here under lawful presence and another [who does not have documented status].”

Menendez is the author of a new book, “Growing American Roots,” that makes a case for the nation to do more to acknowledge its fast-growing Latino community.

“I wrote the book because I’m tired of listening to a lot of talk show hosts who seem to have a problem with the Hispanic community in this country, and would paint us all as if we just crossed the border yesterday, when in fact the Hispanic community in this country has had a presence here since before the founding of the country,” Menendez said. “We have been patriots both in [the nation’s] creation and it’s defense, we are a trillion-dollar domestic market place in this nation. And you can’t field a Major League Baseball team, or maybe look at television, without seeing us.”

Menendez, the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, also said the figures from the Congressional Budget Office regarding the cost of the Senate health care bill will help in leadership’s quest for 60 votes.

“Certainly the Congressional Budget Office estimates are incredibly important,” he said. “It shows that we’re going to reduce the deficit even more -- that it’s fully paid for, that we will cover 31 million Americans more.”

Watch the full interview with Sen. Robert Menendez HERE .

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