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columbus represent

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Medicaid Rolls Down 22,000 in Ohio

Medicaid applicants struggle with new ID, citizenship rules
By MATT LEINGANG, Associated Press Writer

COLUMBUS – With money tight, Melinda Shea and her family turned to a government program to pay their medical bills.

But she is one of thousands of Ohioans whose Medicaid applications have been denied or delayed because they are having trouble getting birth certificates or other documents proving U.S. citizenship. Advocates for the poor say it is an unintended consequence of a federal mandate to deny the coverage for illegal immigrants.

“It’s extremely frustrating,” said Shea, 27, of Cincinnati.

Shea and her 2-year-old son could not get Medicaid benefits for a month while they waited until January for a local health department to provide certified copies of their birth certificates. Their Medicaid eligibility cards finally arrived last week.

Shea’s husband, however, remains without coverage because he hasn’t received his birth certificate from state health officials in Kentucky, where he was born.

“He’s uninsured, and all we can do is hope he doesn’t get sick,” said Shea, who works part-time at a day care center. The couple make about $1,600 a month.

Ohio began enforcing the citizenship verification requirement in late September. Medicaid enrollment fell by 22,000 over the next three months, according to the latest state data.

Documentation problems also have caused Medicaid enrollment to decline in Wisconsin, Virginia, Kansas, Iowa, Louisiana and New Hampshire, according to a study of data from those states released last week by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan research group in Washington. Again, the burden is falling mostly on U.S. citizens in those states, the group said.

The federal mandate requires all people applying for Medicaid or renewing their coverage to show a passport, birth certificate or other documentation. A driver’s license alone doesn’t suffice because it doesn’t prove citizenship.

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