House Democrats voted Thursday to fast-track an electronic medical records system that would serve illegal immigrants, something America’s veterans have been seeking for years.
Only two Republican congressmen supported the bill — Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and Fred Upton of Michigan.
The proposal has yet to be considered by the Republican-controlled Senate.
The Democratic proposal would require the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol to create a universally connected Electronic Health Records system which “can be accessed by all departmental components operating along the borders of the United States,” according to the bill.
The bill gives the DHS 90 days after the bill receives final approval to get the job done.
In contrast, the Veterans Administration has been working for years to implement a similar EHR system for veterans.
According to American Military News, veterans do have access to EHRs at individual care providers and facilities, however, their records are not universally connected. That means their records do not to follow them between community care providers, the VA and the DoD and are unable to be accessed electronically by other providers in the agency.
“The modernized system will allow VA to have patient data shared seamlessly between VA and DoD,” a VA news release states.
Democratic Rep. Lauren Underwood of Illinois said it is important for Congress to ensure that workers at the border are doing their jobs.
“As DHS works to improve its medical screening of children and migrants at the border to ensure there is a minimum standard of care, the need for proper record keeping on those screenings will only increase,” she said.
Underwood said that the bill was based on her experiences touring America’s southern Border.
“When I was at the border I saw busy, overworked Border Patrol officials having to keep health records on paper. I also saw how these records don’t follow migrants between facilities and transfers of custody,” she said.
But critics wondered how adding more responsibilities to overworked Border Patrol officials would fix anything.
“I oppose this bill because it is poorly conceived, erroneously drafted and extremely risky,” Republican Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana said.
“This bill would require the Border Patrol to divert resources from its core missions and create a new medical screening for those who illegally cross and enter the country between ports of entry.”
Republican Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina said in a statement that the Democratic bill was wrong on multiple levels.
“Earlier this week, I said impeachment was the House Democrats only agenda. I was mistaken. They just passed legislation that will give illegal immigrants better health care records than our veterans and servicemembers. More and more they are making their priorities clear and it’s absolutely shameful,” he said.
Walker noted that Democrats want illegal immigrants to have universal electronic health records faster than they are available for veterans.
“The Veterans Administration (VA) will not have similar electronic health records systems in place for nine years and the Department of Defense (DOD) will not have those systems for another five years,” he said.
Tennessee Republican Rep. Tim Burchett said in a Twitter video that Republicans proposed an amendment to the Democratic bill to ensure veterans receive the same treatment as illegal immigrants under the bill.
Democrats voted down that amendment, Burchett said.
Amendment to give VETERANS same healthcare as ILLEGALS fails. Are you kidding me? We are so out of wack. pic.twitter.com/eYgqkklrMW
— Tim Burchett (@timburchett) September 26, 2019
The amendment referenced by Burchett proposed the establishment date of the EHR system for immigrants be pushed back to Sept. 30, 2027 — 10 days after veteran’s interoperable EHR system would be fully operational within the VA.
Republican Rep. Mark Green of Tennessee presented the motion to recommit H.R. 3525 with his amendment seeking to “ensure that our veterans get this service first.”
Section 3 of Bill H.R. 3525 states that within 90 days of its enactment, DHS would “establish within the Department an electronic health record system that can be accessed by all departmental components operating along the borders of the United States for individuals in the custody of such components.”
Meanwhile, an EHR system accessible between both the VA and the DoD is set to be implemented in some VA hospitals only as soon as 2020, and the full modernization effort, which officially began last May, was set to be rolled out over a decade, the Military Times reported.
But there are other problems with the bill, Walker said.
“Additionally, the new requirements are not funded, so DHS would be forced to take funds from other agency efforts including border security, combating terrorism, stopping drug and human trafficking, and natural disaster response,” he said.
Republican Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee agreed.
“If we cannot deliver a modern medical record for the men and women who put their lives on the line for us sooner than that, it is impossible to think that we could or should deliver one … for those who knowingly enter our country illegally,” Roe said in a statement.
“We should not treat anyone, particularly someone who breaks our laws, better than we treat our heroes. DHS staff along the border are doing the best they can to keep up with screening illegal border crossers and this bill will make it harder for them to do their job without actually helping anyone,” he said.
CORRECTION, Nov. 7, 2019: When first published, this article stated veterans have been waiting for years for an EHR system. On Oct. 23, after a reader brought the error to our attention, we updated our article to clarify that while veterans do currently have access to EHRs at individual care providers and facilities, the records do not follow patients to all points of care between the VA and the DoD and are not accessible electronically by other providers. H.R. 3525 would implement a similarly interconnected medical records system along the border for immigrants years ahead of the full implementation of a universal electronic health records system for our military veterans.
The Western Journal failed to abide by our Editorial Standards and issue this correction when the article was updated. We apologize to our readers for failing to do so and for any confusion we may have caused.
After Business Insider included this article on a list of the “top 10 fake-news stories of 2019,” we discovered additional information from Rep. Green’s proposed amendment to H.R. 3525, which is now included in our article. This information clarifies that the proposed amendment was to move the establishment date of the EHR system for immigrants to Sept. 30, 2027, ensuring military veterans are given the interconnected EHR system they have been waiting for first.
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