NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 16, 2006

Starting in July 2006, Medicaid recipients must provide birth certificates or passports to prove U.S. citizenship if they are to continue to have health insurance -- no exceptions, says the Tampa Tribune.

This tough documentation rule is meant to prevent illegal immigrants from declaring they are citizens and obtaining benefits; however, the rule is too tough and not really necessary, says the Tribune:

  • There are some 51 million native-born or naturalized U.S. citizens insured by Medicaid, and there's little evidence that a significant number of them are "stealing" benefits, says the Tribune.
  • The new rule, however, could hurt U.S. citizens who are eligible for coverage, because it won't be easy for all Americans to come up with the proof the government demands.
  • In fact, an estimated 3 to 5 million U.S.-born Medicaid beneficiaries do not have the documents readily available and are at risk of losing coverage.
  • Some of these folks will eventually obtain the necessary documents, but the interim delays could impede their access to medical care when then need it.

The cost of Medicaid to both the state and federal governments is rising and lawmakers are trying to get it under control, but if Medicaid recipients are either dropped from the program or denied coverage because they can't prove citizenship, it could prove a boon to the state and federal budgets, says the Tribune.

However, Medicaid has long relied on the signature of the beneficiary, under penalty of perjury, to certify citizenship and with little evidence of fraud, that's the way it should stay, says the Tribune.

Source: Editorial, "Congress Should Scrap Unrealistic Medicaid Documentation Plan," Tampa Bay Online News, May 11, 2006.


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