Exemptions Issued to Proof-of-Citizenship Law
CMS on Thursday announced that it will exempt people enrolled in the Supplemental Security Income or Medicare programs and other groups from regulations that took effect July 1 requiring Medicaid beneficiaries and applicants to provide proof of citizenship in order to receive benefits, the Washington Post reports (Levine, Washington Post, 7/7). Under the law, individuals seeking care through Medicaid must show proof of U.S. citizenship, such as a birth certificate, passport or other form of identification.
The law's intent is to prevent undocumented immigrants from claiming to be citizens in order to receive benefits provided only to legal residents (California Healthline, 6/29).
CMS Administrator Mark McClellan said that people receiving Medicare or SSI benefits would be exempt under the agency's new regulation because they already had to establish their citizenship when they enrolled in those programs. He estimated that about eight million of 55 million Medicaid beneficiaries would fall into those categories.
McClellan also said states could establish proof of citizenship by referencing records of state agencies that administer food stamps, child support and child protective services, as well as agencies that issue driver's licenses (Pear, New York Times, 7/7).
In addition, individuals who make a "good faith effort" to prove their citizenship will not face loss of coverage. In rare cases, sworn affidavits from the beneficiary and at least one other person could be used when no documentation of citizenship can be found.
The regulations will become final later this summer (Alonso-Zaldivar, Los Angles Times, 7/7).
The New York Times notes that in an "unusual preamble to the new rule," CMS states that it believes Congress intended to exempt people in Medicare or SSI from the proof-of-citizenship rule. The original law states that the requirement "shall not apply to an alien who is eligible for medical assistance" if the person also is enrolled in one of the other programs. According to the CMS preamble, this language is "clearly a drafting error" in which Congress intended to use the word "citizen" but "actually used the term 'alien.'"
CMS said it was correcting "a scrivener's error" with the new regulations (New York Times, 7/7).
A hearing will be held Friday in federal court in Chicago for a lawsuit in which advocacy groups are seeking to stop implementation of the new law on grounds that it is unconstitutional (Washington Post, 7/7).