NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 24, 2006

Almost all of Massachusetts' poorest residents will have to show proof of U.S. citizenship to continue getting medical care by July 1, under a little-noticed federal law that could endanger coverage for many, as the state tries to expand access to healthcare, according to the Boston Globe.

Born out of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, and in an ongoing effort to clamp down on illegal immigration, the new federal requirement compels anyone seeking Medicaid coverage to provide a birth certificate, passport or another form of identification in order to sign up for benefits or renew them.

Health care specialists fear that because of the requirement, many Medicaid recipients could find it increasingly difficult to obtain medical coverage:

  • The vast majority of the more than 1 million people on MassHealth, the Massachusetts Medicaid program, would be forced to comply, lengthening the process.
  • Many recipients, including the homeless and mentally disabled won't be able to easily produce documentation of their citizenship.

Some health care advocates described the new rules as onerous on Medicaid recipients. ''It's ironic that this is happening in the state where part of the health reform plan is to make sure that everyone who's eligible for Medicaid is enrolled" said Victoria Pulos, health attorney at the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute.

Others, however, argue that the requirement is only to verify that U.S. citizens are getting Medicaid. "After years of listening to 'advocates' whine about compassion for those who intentionally break our laws for financial gain, I'm glad to see us finally showing some compassion for our own poor and sick who abide by the law" said Charles Norwood, the Georgia representative who added the provision.

Source: Scott Helman, "US rule demands proof of citizenship for healthcare," Boston Globe, April 11, 2006.

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