Medicaid Enrollment Rules for Some Infants Being Revised
CMS on Tuesday announced that infants born to undocumented immigrants whose deliveries are covered by Medicaid could automatically receive coverage under the program for one year, a reversal of current policy, the New York Times reports (Pear, New York Times, 3/21). Under an interim final rule issued in July 2006, CMS said that infants born to undocumented immigrants and others whose deliveries are covered by an emergency Medicaid provision would not automatically receive coverage under the program (Carey, CQ HealthBeat, 3/20).
The rule required that undocumented immigrants provide documentation to prove the citizenship of their infants before they could receive Medicaid coverage. A number of state officials, hospitals and pediatricians criticized the policy because infants born in the U.S. are considered citizens under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution (New York Times, 3/21).
CMS officials said that the agency will issue a new interim final rule to revise the policy in the near future. Under the new rule, undocumented immigrants would have to provide documentation to prove the citizenship of their children after one year to maintain their Medicaid coverage, CMS said (CQ HealthBeat, 3/20).
The new rule will not affect Medicaid proof-of-citizenship requirements for adults or children older than age one.
Leslie Norwalk, acting administrator of CMS, said, "We have heard the concerns raised and are taking action to ensure that newborns in similar circumstances are treated the same under Medicaid eligibility rules" (LaMendola, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 3/21). Norwalk added, "We intend to modify the documentation requirements to put all babies born in the U.S. whose deliveries are covered by Medicaid on an equal footing."
Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) said, "I'm glad the administration has taken this small step to fix a problem that it created. But we have a long way to go before the larger issue of citizenship documentation is resolved" (New York Times, 3/21).
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who has introduced a bill (S 751) to ensure that all eligible infants born in the U.S. receive Medicaid coverage, called the announcement by CMS "a positive step," adding, "I look forward to watching CMS smoothly implement this rule" (CQ HealthBeat, 3/20).
In a statement, Washington state Gov. Chris Gregoire (D) said, "The Constitution could not be more clear: Babies born in the U.S. are citizens, regardless of who their parents are." Gregoire recently filed a lawsuit against HHS in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, Wash., over the policy (Byrd, AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 3/21).