Providers breathing sigh of relief over citizenship ruling

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Acknowledging providers' pleas, the Bush administration has toned down a citizenship requirement for gaining eligibility to Medicaid funding.

The administration reversed itself last month and announced that millions of Medicaid beneficiaries would be exempt from having to show original birth certificates, passports or other vital documents to qualify for funding.
"Reason and fairness have prevailed in this case, and we thank the administration for this intelligent public policy correction," said Bruce Yarwood, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association, which lobbied across a broad front to get the requirement changed. The new law took effect on July 1. Within a week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued an amended interim final regulation.
The exemption will apply to more than 8 million of the 55 million Medicaid recipients, because they already had established citizenship when they applied for Medicare or Supplemental Security Income.
Providers praised the intent of the requirement: preventing illegal immigrants from receiving Medicaid payments. But they worried that it would be impossible for some cognitively impaired residents to help produce necessary documents. In some cases, the documents might not exist anymore or never existed, like birth certificates for those individuals who were born at home.
Prior to the ruling, two lawsuits were filed challenging the legality of the new law.