Individuals seeking care through Medicaid beginning on July 1, 2006 will be required under federal law to show proof of U.S. citizenship — such as a birth certificate, passport or another form of identification. The new requirement will apply to all Medicaid applications submitted after July 1, 2006, as well as all applications to renew Medicaid coverage. (In most cases, Medicaid beneficiaries must renew their coverage every six months.) This means that in the first six to twelve months, states will have to check citizenship documents for more than 50 million beneficiaries.
This requirement was included in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, which President Bush signed into law earlier this year. The provision’s intent is to prevent undocumented immigrants from claiming to be citizens in order to receive benefits only provided to legal residents. Under federal law, undocumented immigrants can receive only emergency care through Medicaid. Many advocates and health care professionals are concerned that with the new citizenship requirements, millions of Medicaid beneficiaries will not be able to produce the needed documentation and will have difficulty receiving health services.
According to a report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), the people most at risk for losing their Medicaid because of not having the required documents include the following:
Some 12 million African Americans, including 800,000 elderly African Americans.
These people will be subject to the new requirement between July 2006 and June 2007, and are at particular risk of having their Medicaid coverage delayed, denied, or canceled because many elderly African Americans have no birth certificate.
Many were born in a time when racial discrimination in hospital admissions prevented mothers from giving birth at a hospital. As a result, their births often were not officially registered, and no birth certificates were given. (CBPP cites one study that estimates that about one in five African Americans born in the 1939-1940 period lack a birth certificate.)
Adults without a high-school diploma, adults living in rural areas (9 percent of both groups reported that they lack the required documents, according to CBPP survey), and senior citizens aged 65 or older (7 percent of whom reported in a CBPP survey that they lack the required documents); People who have a sudden medical emergency and need Medicaid coverage immediately but cannot get their documents quickly; People who are homeless, mentally ill, or suffering from dementia or a disease like Alzheimer’s; People who are in nursing homes or are severely disabled and would have difficulty getting access to their birth certificate; and People whose personal documents have been destroyed by disasters such as fires, hurricanes or earthquakes.
Besides putting millions of Medicaid beneficiaries in jeopardy of loosing their coverage, this new requirement also puts up another barrier for people newly applying for Medicaid. Obtaining these documents, for those who do not have them, can take substantial time and costs money.
When Grandmama is denied Medicaid benefits, or thrown out of her nursing home, or stuck with an astronomical Hospital bill she can’t possibly pay, perhaps then we’ll see the insanity and the racism behind this so-called illegal immigrant fixation. The same racism that brought us here in chains is the same racism that forces folks to immigrate to this country because the global economic system makes it impossible to stay at home and feed their children.
I fail to understand why smart black people can’t see the racism that plays out in the global economy. I fail to understand why smart black people can’t see the subterfuge playing out here. This “documentation” scheme is nothing more than a backdoor, draconian and racist plan to deny medicaid benefits to legal U.S. Citizens whose citizenship has never been questioned.
My grandmamas are all in their 70’s now and I will be damned if they or anybody else in my family is gonna be looking for some stupid-damn birth certificate to get the medical care they need. My father’s Mama is 74 and she still works. My mother’s Mama is 78 and a retired nurse for the VA. If I have to go hunting for a fu#*in’ birth certificate for a retired federal government employee-somebody’s gonna hafta die.