SALEM — It will be a few more weeks before Oregon fully enforces a new federal law that requires Medicaid applicants to prove they are U.S. citizens, according to the state Department of Human Services.
The federal law, which is aimed at preventing illegal immigrants from receiving state and federal paid benefits, was supposed to take effect July 1.
But Dr. Bruce Goldberg, the agency's director, said the state only recently got the 94 pages that explain the new rules. He said it will take time to develop new procedures and train the staff.
The law requires people to submit a birth certificate, passport or other documentation proving their identity and citizenship when they apply for their Medicaid benefits. Along with new Medicaid applicants, more than 300,000 adults and children in Oregon currently receiving benefits will need to prove their U.S. citizenship when they reapply every six months.
Oregon has always required that Medicaid enrollees be citizens. But in most cases, the state never bothered to ask for documentation.
The state estimates that thousands of Oregonians may be unable to easily provide such proof. People who do not have access or the ability to get the necessary documents — such as the homeless, the mentally ill and elderly people in nursing homes — are thought to be most at risk.
Responding to similar concerns across the nation, the Bush administration recently announced that Medicaid recipients who also receive Medicare or Supplemental Security Income benefits would be exempt from the documentation requirement.
People who enter the United States illegally and legal immigrants who have been in the country fewer than five years are not entitled to most taxpayer-funded health benefits. Emergency room care and emergency child delivery are allowed.
An analysis by the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the new rules would reduce Medicaid spending by $735 million over 10 years. The CBO also estimates that of the 50 million people receiving Medicaid, about 35,000 — primarily illegal immigrants — would lose coverage by 2015.
—The Associated Press