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DHS news release

Aug. 7, 2006

Contact: Ann Snyder 503-945-5922

Oregon Medicaid programs to start asking for citizenship proof Sept. 1

Oregonians applying for Medicaid programs will be asked to provide evidence of citizenship beginning Sept. 1, Oregon Department of Human Services officials said today. The requirement is part of a new federal law, the Deficit Reduction Act, passed earlier this year by Congress.

Current recipients who are re-enrolling will be given a reasonable opportunity to produce required documents, generally 45 to 90 days from the re-enrollment date, officials said. Individuals not currently enrolled in Medicaid will be expected to provide the required documents before they may begin receiving benefits.

"Both Governor Kulongoski and federal officials have made clear that no one who is eligible for Medicaid should be denied services unnecessarily," said Bruce Goldberg, DHS director. "So we will balance full compliance with this new federal law with assistance to persons who cannot readily comply because of mental illness, homelessness, illiteracy or other legitimate barriers."

Approximately 500,000 persons receive Medicaid benefits in Oregon. DHS estimates that as many as 3,000 persons may need state assistance in obtaining their documents.

Oregon and other states are responding to a new federal law requiring persons applying or re-enrolling for Medicaid benefits to prove their citizenship. In Oregon the law affects persons receiving Medicaid-paid Oregon Health Plan medical coverage, long-term care benefits and family-planning services.

The law was effective July 1, the federal government circulated interim rules July 12, and federal officials told state Medicaid directors they recognized states might be delayed by the need to update rules, train staff and prepare mailings to alert Medicaid beneficiaries.

Federal rules supporting the new law allow Medicaid applicants to provide a variety of substantiating documents ranging from passports and birth certificates to certificates of citizenship or naturalization, official U.S. military records, certain tribal records, as well as certain medical, insurance and long-term care admission records that are at least five years old. Persons receiving Medicare and Supplemental Security Income benefits are exempted from the documentation requirement because their citizenship is already documented.

Goldberg said the agency would assist Oregon-born persons by checking the agency's database of birth certificates going back to 1903 and available electronically from 1920. For persons born in other states, he said, DHS will provide information about how to order birth certificates and, in specified hardship cases, would pay the cost of obtaining the document.

States expect the federal government to pay half their costs of administering the new law, Goldberg said.

Federal rules require applicants to provide original documents. Because applications are handled through the mail for benefits such as the Oregon Health Plan, Goldberg said, persons who do not want to temporarily give up originals may take them to a DHS field office to be copied.

Legal residents who are not citizens will continue to be asked to provide appropriate documents from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

DHS officials said Medicaid users are receiving notice of the new law by mail, which will be augmented by posters and fliers in DHS offices. DHS employees have received details about how to implement the new law, and the agency also has notified providers, partners and advocacy organizations about the new requirements.

More information is available on the DHS Web site.