Topeka Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said Wednesday federal rules requiring Medicaid beneficiaries to provide documented proof of U.S. citizenship could result in needy Kansans unfairly losing health care coverage and the state paying millions of dollars in extra costs.
Sebelius said she hopes that when the new Congress starts in January it will change the rule.
"That is certainly one of the great concerns of what the requirements are now, and how realistic they are, and the possibility of disqualifying elderly, frail Kansans who may have dementia, who may not have family members," Sebelius said.
Under the new rules, each person applying for Medicaid benefits now must submit one primary document proving citizenship, such as a passport, or two secondary documents: one verifying citizenship, such as a birth certificate, and one verifying identity, such as a driver's license or school identification card.
The measure was touted by supporters as a way to prevent illegal immigrants from enrolling in the state-federal program that provides health care to the disabled and needy.
But consumer advocates said many vulnerable people who legitimately were eligible for assistance would lose coverage because they couldn't produce the necessary documentation.
"I mean, to come up with original birth certificates and original documentation is pretty difficult for some of these folks, and I think that is a very dangerous path to go down," Sebelius said.
In recent days, state health officials have said thousands of low-income Kansans, many of them children, have lost or been denied health care coverage because of the new rules.
In addition to the loss of benefits, the federal verification rule has been a bureaucratic nightmare, they said.
State health officials have requested nearly $1.2 million in additional funds to hire more staff to handle the work associated with the citizenship verification.
"It has just been overwhelming our system," said Andy Allison, deputy director of the Kansas Health Policy Authority.
"We have put in lots of hours of overtime, but we haven't been able to dig out from this avalanche," he said.
Sebelius said the proof-of-citizenship requirement was one of several federal mandates that were passed by Congress right before the election.
"There was no input from the states on how realistic these were, what the costs were," she said.
Medicare Part D
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- Customizing Your Health Plan
- Customizing Your Health Plan (pdf)
- Sebelius: ID rules could cause Kansans to lose health coverage
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