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'The Business of Health Care Report'

New Medicaid Citizenship Requirements Run Risk of Exacerbating Uninsured Problem
07/24/2006

Click to listen to the taped broadcast.

I’m Doug Hawthorne, president and CEO of Texas Health Resources, with “The Business of Health Care Report.”

Millions of low-income Americans now have to show their birth certificate or U.S. passport if they want to obtain health care through their state’s Medicaid program. The requirement went into effect July 1.

The proof of citizenship requirement is intended to prevent illegal immigrants from getting their health care paid for by the government. However, some health analysts fear the provision could prevent some legal residents from getting care if they can’t produce the necessary documents in a timely manner. Medicaid is the nation’s true health care safety net. We urge policy makers to ensure that the new requirements – however well-intentioned – do not overburden the patient or health care providers who will continue to provide emergency services to all, regardless of citizenship status.

Medicaid provides access to critical health care for more than 52 million low-income children. People who can’t produce a birth certificate or passport, including children, still will get sick and need care. Denying them care most likely will mean that care will only be delayed until they are much sicker. Then the cost of care becomes more expensive and likely means more overcrowding of hospital emergency departments.

Medicaid policies must provide maximum flexibility and must avoid an environment that results in people being denied access to care in a timely manner.

For Texas Health Resources and its faith-based hospitals – Harris Methodist, Presbyterian and Arlington Memorial – I’m Doug Hawthorne.

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