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8,600 Alabamians may lose Medicaid
April 1 deadline for patients to show proof of citizenship to keep coverage

BIRMINGHAM (AP) — About 8,600 Alabamians who receive Medicaid to pay for health care services will lose their coverage April 1 because they didn't provide proof of their U.S. citizenship and identity, officials said.

This is the first wave of patients affected by a federal law that took effect in July requiring citizenship proof to keep illegal immigrants from using the program.

The soon-to-be-dropped patients received letters last week warning of the move and have 60 days to submit the required documentation to be reinstated. They will have to reapply for Medicaid to get coverage if they don't submit the information.

Foster children and Medicaid patients who also are on Medicare or are disabled have been exempted from the requirement, but the law still affects about 500,000 people in the state. About 6,200 on the list are children.

Alabama has given Medicaid patients nine months to comply with the law, Medicaid Commissioner Carol Steckel said.

In that time, the agency sent patients multiple letters, created handouts and posters for health care providers and advocacy groups, and worked with the Department of Public Health to simplify the process of getting birth certificates, she said.

'Information and time'

"We did absolutely everything we could do to try to give folks information and time," Steckel said. "We really went the extra mile."

Jim Carnes, a policy analyst with Alabama Arise, said the state did its best to protect patients under the federal edict, but he thinks it's a shame that people will suffer for what is a minimal problem in Alabama.

Carnes said legitimate Medicaid patients will be dropped because they either didn't get the message or had trouble providing the documentation.

"It was an overkill effort," Carnes said. "In an attempt to strain that small group of people out of the system, they've really blocked a much larger group."

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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