Medicaid ID requirements relaxed

Helen Palmer Jul 7, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: The president spoke for a bit about the jobs number during a press conference in Chicago this morning. Using both his hands. Said some things about North Korea and Iraq. And he touched on immigration, too. The President is still looking for a compromise with Congress. But another part of the executive branch has made a U-turn on one immigration requirement: Medicaid changed some of its rules about how to show you’re eligible. From the Marketplace Health Desk at WGBH, Helen Palmer has that story.

HELEN PALMER: Seniors and disabled people who qualify for Supplemental Security Income won’t have to produce proof of citizenship or legal residence to get Medicaid. That “clarification of the rules” comes from Mark McLellan, head of Medicare and Medicaid.

MARK MCLELLAN: This is over 8 million of the nation’s most vulnerable Medicaid beneficiaries. And in most cases they have already gone through a process to document their citizenship.

Seniors with dementia, and profoundly disabled or mentally ill people, will fall into this category. It’s good news for them, says Ron Pollack of the consumer health group, Families USA.

RON POLLACK: However, it still leaves more than 40 million low-income people at risk of losing their Medicaid coverage and joining the ranks of the uninsured.

Advocates for the poor are challenging the law in court. They argue it’s unconstitutional because all the people who get Medicaid have already proved they qualify. Lead attorney John Bouman:

JOHN BOUMAN: It violates the due process clause for those people to have to prove it all over again just because Congress is having an argument about immigration.

Bouman says these latest rules that exempt some Medicaid recipients don’t alter the basic grounds of the suit.

Medicaid chief McLellan says many people never produced documents, they just had to check a box on a form.

Consumer groups counter that there’s no evidence that vast numbers of undocumented aliens are fraudulently claiming Medicaid benefits. Meantime, the states are grumbling. Who’ll have to check all these documents they ask?

We shall. It’s yet another unfunded mandate from Washington.

In Boston, I’m Helen Palmer for Marketplace.

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