Class-Action Suit Medicaid Over Proof-of-Citizenship Law To Be Filed

A class-action lawsuit over a new Medicaid law that would require beneficiaries and applicants to provide proof of citizenship to receive benefits beginning July 1 is expected to be filed Wednesday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (Kemper, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 6/28). The measure is included in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, which was signed into law by President Bush in February. Under the law, individuals seeking care through Medicaid as of July 1 will be required to show proof of U.S. citizenship, such as a birth certificate, passport or another form of identification. The law's intent is to prevent undocumented immigrants from claiming to be citizens in order to receive benefits only provided to legal residents (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 4/11). The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the requirement will save the federal government $220 million over five years and $735 million over 10 years. CBO says that by 2015, about 35,000 people -- mostly undocumented immigrants -- will lose coverage because of the new requirement. However, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that three million to five million low-income citizens could lose Medicaid coverage because they do not have birth certificates or passports (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 4/18). The lawsuit -- to be filed on behalf of at least four Medicaid beneficiaries who are unable to provide documentation of their citizenship -- alleges that current enrollees who already have been declared eligible for Medicaid would be put "through a complex, costly and difficult administrative process to prove the same thing all over again." Many U.S. residents -- including blacks in the South who were denied access to hospital maternity wards during periods of segregation -- cannot provide such documentation, according to the lawsuit. Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, which is aiding those involved in the lawsuit, said the stricter Medicaid requirement is "part of the backlash and -- if I may say -- the pandering of members of Congress" as they debate how to deal with the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 6/28).

NPR's "Talk of the Nation" on Tuesday included a discussion of the Medicaid law. The segment includes comments from Leslie Norwalk, deputy administrator of CMS, and Pollack (Conan, "Talk of the Nation," NPR, 6/27). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.