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Are Some Latino Infants Being Denied Medicaid Benefits Illegally?

LatinaLista — It’s funny just how small the United States has become since undocumented immigrants were declared Public Enemy #1.

Suddenly, our country isn’t big enough to house, employ or otherwise tolerate undocumented immigrants or their children, even when those kids hold American citizenship themselves.

Until it is sanctioned by Congress, children born on U.S. soil, regardless of their parents’ citizenship status, are still U.S. citizens.

That’s why a recent revelation in Texas regarding Medicaid coverage has some people worried that this anti-illegal immigrant hysteria sweeping the country is putting the youngest victims of this debate at unwarranted risk, and possibly illegally.

Ever since states were federally mandated in July of 2006 to enforce the new Medicaid guidelines requiring everyone to prove their citizenship status before receiving Medicaid, there has been some confusion as to who is eligible for Medicaid.

Since the regulations are aimed at weeding out immigrant families from allegedly taking advantage of the system, it made sense that any woman applying for Medicaid would have to show proof of citizenship.

What makes these particular new guidelines so hard to swallow is that it is now required that families must prove the citizenship status of their newborns in order for the babies to receive Medicaid.

Premature baby needs non-stop medical attention
(Source: Nurseweek)

It’s important to note that this particular guideline of requiring proof of citizenship for newborns was not required by the federal law, but instituted by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

What the authors of this provision didn’t understand completely is that since any child born within our borders is automatically a U.S. citizen, they are already eligible for Medicaid — regardless if their parents are citizens or not.

Yet, under the new guidelines, mothers who are not citizens must submit a new Medicaid application and provide proof of citizenship and identity in order to get Medicaid coverage.

However, those moms who are citizens don’t have to worry about doing any extra paperwork for their children; they’re automatically eligible for Medicaid and don’t even have to apply for benefits.

What it means for those children who are rightfully entitled to Medicaid benefits but whose families must reapply is that there will be a lapse in coverage for them during the most crucial time of their lives, their first year of life.

In Texas, the Center for Public Policy Priorities found something disturbing when tracking the rate of Medicaid denials based on citizenship.

Among the children who were denied, about 200 children 1 year of age and younger were denied.

Anne Dunkelberg of the Center for Public Policy Priorities tells Latina Lista that she feels that of these 200 infants who were denied Medicare benefits, some were wrongfully denied.

“The mother’s status does not affect the child’s eligibility for Medicaid,” said Dunkelberg. “Unless all of these infants were born in another state and the parents didn’t have their birth certificate, it seems more than likely that some of these denials were in error.”

One has to wonder how widespread are these “denial errors” across the country and what the legal ramifications would be if denial of rightful Medicaid coverage resulted in any infant born in this country, of an undocumented mother, suffered some health crisis that could have been prevented with early detection?

Something tells me that the cost would be far higher, to the family, the state and to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, than a simple visit to the pediatrician.

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