Medicaid Proof-of-Citizenship Law Challenged
A class-action lawsuit filed Wednesday over a new law requiring Medicaid beneficiaries and applicants to provide proof of citizenship to receive benefits beginning July 1 alleges that the law is unconstitutional and should not be implemented, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports (Moller, New Orleans Times-Picayune, 6/29).
Under the law, individuals seeking care through Medicaid will be required to 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, 6/28).
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago against HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt on behalf of nine plaintiffs who say they cannot document their citizenship and might lose their Medicaid benefits if the law is implemented. Plaintiffs are seeking to eliminate the requirement (New Orleans Times-Picayune, 6/29).
The suit alleges that the new rules violate the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution regarding due process of law (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 6/28). States that do not enforce the new law will lose federal matching funds, according to a guidance sent by CMS to states on June 9, The Hill reports (McCormack, The Hill, 6/29).
Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, said an estimate by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that three to five million current Medicaid beneficiaries who are U.S. citizens could lose coverage.
Mary Kahn, spokesperson for the federal Medicaid program, declined comment on the lawsuit but said "states must afford applicants or current enrollees a reasonable opportunity to secure the required documents. If a beneficiary is having difficulty, we have instructed states to assist the beneficiary" (CQ HealthBeat, 6/28).
NPR's "All Things Considered" on Wednesday reported on the lawsuit. The segment includes comments from Stephanie Altman, staff attorney with Health and Disability Advocates; Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-Ga.), who wrote the requirement; and Elaine Ryan, deputy director of the American Public Human Services Association, which represents state Medicaid directors (Rovner, "All Things Considered," NPR, 6/28).
The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.