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DHS news release

Aug. 30, 2006


Contact: Ann Snyder 503-945-5922

Medicaid applicants to be asked for citizenship documents beginning Friday

Beginning Friday, state workers will ask people applying or re-applying for most Medicaid benefits to provide evidence of citizenship or legal immigration status in compliance with a new federal law aimed at keeping ineligible non-citizens off Medicaid rolls.

Individuals not currently enrolled in Medicaid programs will be expected to provide required documents before they may begin receiving benefits, and those re-enrolling will be given a reasonable period of time to produce documents before losing benefits.

"Our employees are working hard to ensure that eligible individuals receive appropriate services," said Bruce Goldberg, M.D., Oregon Department of Human Services director. Goldberg estimated that as many as 3,000 people may need DHS assistance in obtaining their documents as a result of mental illness, homelessness, poverty, illiteracy or other barriers.

People already receiving Medicare or Supplemental Security Income benefits are exempted from the requirement because their citizenship already is documented. Legal residents who are not citizens will continue to be asked to provide appropriate documents from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Approximately 500,000 people receive Medicaid health care, long-term care and family-planning benefits in Oregon. Federal estimates put the number of ineligible non-citizens illegally receiving Medicaid benefits in Oregon at up to 350.

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, selected tribal records, and certain medical, insurance and long-term care admission records that are at least five years old. Applicants also will be asked for identification (such as a driver license) to prove their identity.

DHS will assist Oregon-born applicants by checking the agency's database of birth certificates, which goes back to 1903 and is available electronically from 1920. For people born in other states, DHS will provide details about how to order birth certificates and, in specified hardship cases, will pay the cost of obtaining the document.

The federal government, which pays more than 60 percent of Medicaid costs in Oregon, is expected to pay half of states' cost to administer the new law.

Federal rules require that documents verifying citizenship be originals. Because applications for Medicaid benefits such as the Oregon Health Plan are handled through the mail, people who do not want to temporarily give up originals may take them to a DHS field office to be copied.

DHS has notified Medicaid beneficiaries, providers, partners and advocacy organizations about how the agency will comply with the new law, and agency employees have been trained.

More information is available on the DHS Web site. People with questions about the new law are encouraged to speak to a caseworker or to call the DHS Client Advisory Services Unit at 1-800-273-0557.