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Federal regulators relax Medicaid rule requiring proof of US citizenship

[JURIST] The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services [official website], part of the US Department of Health and Human Services, issued a final rule Thursday clarifying proof of citizenship [CMS materials] required to apply for Medicaid benefits. The new rule exempts mostly elderly and disabled applicants who have previously applied for Medicare or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits from the proof of citizenship provision [legislation backgrounder, PDF] contained in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 [text, PDF], which requires either a social security card, passport, or two signed affidavits from non-family members attesting to the applicant's US citizenship for an applicant to be eligible for benefits. The preamble to the new Medicaid rule says the proof of citizenship requirement as passed by Congress in an effort to avoid claims by illegal immigrants contained a "clear drafting error," which permits the regulatory body some flexibility in interpretation.

The new rule appears intended to moot a lawsuit [JURIST report], currently in federal court, that had challenged the regulation as an undue burden on Medicaid beneficiaries [press release]. While the lawyers directing the litigation applauded the new rule Friday, they noted that foster children, homeless people, the mentally disabled and disaster victims are among the millions who may remain uninsured [plaintiffs press release] if they have never applied for either Medicare or SSI benefits. A brief hearing [Reuters report] in the lawsuit was held Friday in Chicago. The New York Times has more. The Los Angeles Times has additional coverage.

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