Concern over Medicaid citizenship rules

Print More

(Host) State officials are concerned about new federal rules that require Medicaid recipients to prove they are U.S. citizens.

The rules were eased somewhat last week. But officials told a legislative oversight committee today that the requirements are still burdensome and expensive.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) State officials at first thought they will need to add 22 full time employees to help 150,000 Vermont Medicaid recipients prove they are citizens.

But late last week, the Bush Administration changed the rules to exempt beneficiaries who also qualify for Social Security or Medicare. That’s about 30,000 Vermonters.

The Administration will also allow states to confirm a person’s citizenship by matching their name with an electronic database, such as Motor Vehicle records.

Deputy Administration Secretary Steve Gold says the changes should ease the burden on the state.

(Gold) “As of Friday, we know that we would set up a system that tries to validate that person through some kind of electronic match. If you’re unable to do that we’ll send a message back saying you’re going to need to come in with a passport, birth certificate, certified copy of your birth certificate.”

(Dillon) Les Birnbaum, who works for the state Department of Children and Families, says it’s hard to predict how many of the 150,000 recipients will have difficulty documenting their citizenship.

(Birnbaum) “We know very few have passports. We wonder how many have birth certificates. Some people have had to get birth certificates to be eligible for other kinds of programs. It could be half or it could be as much as 80% that already have the documentation. There’s really no way to know. So we’re just basically preparing for all the eventualities.”

(Dillon) The state wants to step up efforts to enroll people in Medicaid, But members of the Health Access Oversight Committee were concerned that the new federal citizenship requirement will have the opposite effect, by making it harder for people to enroll.

Mark Larson is a Burlington Democrat.

(Larson) “You have Vermonters who might not qualify or might just give up. And that’s a significant problem. And that’s why for me it’s important to set up a system now to track how many people fall through these cracks because of these new rules.”

(Dillon) The citizenship requirement was slipped into a federal budget bill last February without hearings or testimony. It was introduced by a Georgia congressman who wants to crack down on illegal aliens.

Several groups have challenged the rule in federal court.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

Comments are closed.