NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 6, 2006

Under a new federal policy, children born in the United States to illegal immigrants with low incomes will no longer be automatically entitled to health insurance through Medicaid.

  • Doctors and hospitals said the policy change would make it more difficult for such infants, who are United States citizens, to obtain health care needed in the first year of life.
  • Illegal immigrants are generally barred from Medicaid but can get coverage for treatment of emergency medical conditions, including labor and delivery.
  • In the past, once a woman received emergency care under Medicaid for the birth of a baby, the child was deemed eligible for coverage as well, and states had to cover the children for one year from the date of birth.
  • Under the new policy, an application must be filed for the child, and the parents must provide documents to prove the child's citizenship.

The documentation requirements took effect in July, but some states have been slow to enforce them, and many doctors are only now becoming aware of the effects on newborns.

About four million babies are born in the United States each year and Medicaid pays for more than one-third of all births.  The number involving illegal immigrant parents is unknown but is likely to be in the tens of thousands, health experts say.

Source: Robert Pear, "Medicaid Wants Citizenship Proof for Infant Care," New York Times, November 3, 2006.

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