IMMIGRANT HEALTH: Lawmakers Seek to Amend Medicaid Eligibility
Federal legislation to restore Medicaid eligibility to immigrant children and pregnant women would help reduce the confusion that prevents these groups from getting insurance, the Fresno Bee reports. The legislation, sponsored by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Lincoln Diaz- Balart (R-Fla.), would bring federal Medicaid rules into alignment with California policy. The federal government's 1996 welfare reform law, which barred legal immigrants who entered the country after August 1996 from receiving Medicaid benefits for five years, reduced Medicaid rolls but increased the number of uninsured, according to a recent study by the Washington, D.C.-based Urban Institute. Although California decided to allow immigrants to continue to enroll in Medi-Cal, "the consequences of federal welfare reform were felt in the state," according to the Urban Institute's Leighton Ku. A recent UC-San Francisco study of community health centers found that the number of Medi-Cal patients dropped 14.6% between January 1996 and January 1998. Despite the state's attempts last year to clarify the Medi-Cal enrollment policy, "there's still a lot of confusion about immigration eligibility," according to Yolanda Vera, a staff lawyer at Los Angeles-based Western Center on Law and Poverty. Ku noted that the legislation could reduce confusion about eligibility and "help the state sign up more women and children for Medi-Cal and Healthy Families" (Anderson, 6/21).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.