Oregon Study Finds That Federal Medicaid Rules Aimed at Illegal Immigrants Harm Vulnerable Citizens

News Release
May 11, 2007 Download PDF

New federal rules that require Oregon to verify the identity and citizenship of individuals applying for Medicaid-funded programs have barred over 1,000 Oregonians, mostly children and citizens, from getting health care, a new report by the Department of Human Services finds.

More than 1,000 Oregonians, almost all of whom the State believes to be US citizens, were denied health care services because they were unable to comply with restrictive paperwork requirements created by the federal Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (DRA). The DRA requires individuals applying or recertifying for services to prove their identity and citizenship by providing specified documents according to a limited list of those acceptable. The Department of Human Services report analyzes the impact of the harsh new paperwork rules in Oregon over the first six months the new rules were in place, September 2006 through February 2007.

“The new rules were imposed in a misguided attempt to keep non-citizens from receiving health care benefits for which they are not eligible. Ironically, the primary impact has been to keep citizens from receiving health care benefits for which they are eligible,” said Janet Bauer, a policy analyst at the Oregon Center for Public Policy. Bauer noted that 91 percent of denied households spoke English as their primary language.

The report also shows that children have been disproportionately harmed by the new provisions. The state study found that nearly two-thirds of those who were denied health services were children.

“The federal rules have backfired in Oregon and kids are getting the brunt of it,” said Bauer.

Oregonians seeking health services included low-income applicants to the Oregon Health Plan, seniors and people with disabilities needing nursing care, and people needing family planning services. The report notes that these individuals “represent our state’s most vulnerable citizens, many of whom are unable to comply with the new federal requirements due to lack of financial resources, cognitive impairments or other barriers.”

“These restrictive new rules are not working. Instead of achieving their objective, they have denied our most vulnerable citizens the health care they need,” said Bauer.

The report also reveals that the Department of Human Services has been forced to spend substantial state resources implementing the new federal rules. According to the report, the Department committed “thousands of hours” of staff time, and invested approximately $44,000 to assist applicants with the fees involved in obtaining required documents from states where the applicants were born. Despite these substantial costs to the state, over 1,000 eligible citizens were denied services.

“This report sends a message to Oregon’s congressional delegation to address this problem when they reauthorize the State Children’s Health Insurance Program this year,” said Bauer. “Our delegation should share a copy of this report with every member of Congress and urge that the SCHIP reauthorization bill restore states’ option to determine the most effective way to verify the status of those applying for benefits,” she added.

The DHS report can be found online at http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/citizenship/report0705.pdf

The Oregon Center for Public Policy does in-depth research and analysis on budget, tax, and economic issues. The Center’s goal is to improve decision making and generate more opportunities for all Oregonians.