SUPREME COURT: Upholds Denial of Benefits to Non-Citizens
The Supreme Court ruled that the federal government may deny welfare benefits, including Medicaid, to non-citizens, AP/USA Today reports. The justices rejected an appeal by Chicago officials and a group of immigrants yesterday, without comment. The 1996 Welfare Reform Act barred immigrant access to general welfare benefits and Medicaid until they had lived in the United States for five years (Asseo, 3/28). Since then, Congress has "backtracked slightly" and restored benefits for disabled immigrants, those older than 65, younger than 18, military veterans and those who have worked in the U.S. for over 10 years (Savage, Boston Globe/Los Angeles Times, 3/28). Lawmakers said the "cutoff was intended to encourage immigrants to be self-sufficient and to ensure that welfare benefits do not create an incentive for people to immigrate to the USA." But plaintiffs argue the law violates equal protection rights guaranteed by the Constitution (AP/USA Today, 3/28). The Supreme Court has ruled in the past that the government may not discriminate based on race, gender or ethnicity, but has granted federal authorities "leeway to establish distinctions based on a person's immigration status" (Boston Globe/Los Angeles Times, 3/28).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.