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Monday, March 12th 2007

No Papers? No Healthcare

I have mixed emotions about extending government subsidized healthcare to illegal immigrants. But whatever my half hearted support of such, apparently requiring everyone to document their American citizenship to enroll in Medicaid has some unintended consequences.

A new federal rule intended to keep illegal immigrants from receiving Medicaid has instead shut out tens of thousands of United States citizens who have had difficulty complying with requirements to show birth certificates and other documents proving their citizenship, state officials say.

Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Ohio and Virginia have all reported declines in enrollment and traced them to the new federal requirement, which comes just as state officials around the country are striving to expand coverage through Medicaid and other means.

Under a 2006 federal law, the Deficit Reduction Act, most people who say they are United States citizens and want Medicaid must provide “satisfactory documentary evidence of citizenship,” which could include a passport or the combination of a birth certificate and a driver’s license.

As long as we’re going to be providing public assistance for healthcare it is desirable to limit illegal immigrant enrollment in such, but clearly the documented proof of American citizenship required is too extensive. Delegating ‘common sense’ to the periphery of bureaucracies is difficult but clearly we need a bit of that here when trying to allow people to enroll in Medicaid.

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