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Medicaid ID law removes thousands of poor Alabamians

BIRMINGHAM (AP) — Using a new law aimed at illegal immigrants, Medicaid has removed more than 5,000 people from its aid rolls in Alabama, but only 115 of them are Hispanic, The Birmingham News reported Sunday.

More than 5,000 people have lost their Medicaid coverage for failing to provide a birth certificate or other proof of citizenship, according to data from the Alabama Medicaid Agency.

Children were the largest group affected: 2,081 black children and 1,213 white children were removed from Medicaid.

“This was a predictable consequence,” said U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, D-Birmingham. “I felt that, if we tried to apply a requirement of paperwork and documentation, a lot of people who weren’t going to have it were senior citizens and low-income minorities.”

Deficit Reduction Act

The new law was part of the Deficit Reduction Act, which Davis voted against.

In Alabama, 527,400 people were subject to the new requirement. Some Medicaid recipients, including disabled adults and children and foster children, were exempt from the rule.

Hispanics comprised 6 percent of the Medicaid rolls affected by the new rule, the newspaper reported, but they accounted for 2 percent of the patients dropped from Medicaid.

Black Alabamians comprised 48 percent of the affected group and accounted for nearly 60 percent of the 527,400 who dropped.

A 2005 Inspector General’s report found most states don’t verify the citizenship status of those applying for Medicaid, creating an opportunity for illegal immigrants to join the government health-care program.

However, Alabama Medicaid Commissioner Carol Steckel said she did not believe the state had a large problem with illegal immigrants fraudulently signing up for benefits.

“I’ve only had one identified that’s gotten on that shouldn’t have,” Steckel said.

Medicaid recipients declare their race and ethnicity when they apply for benefits. No state worker verifies the information, but Steckel said there’s no indication of widespread misrepresentation.

Steckel said she’s proud of the work her employees did to get people back on the rolls.

As of February, 12,000 to 13,000 people were going to be dropped from the Medicaid
rolls for lack of proper paperwork.

Steckel credited outreach efforts by her staff, work of the legislative Black Caucus and cooperation from the Alabama Department of Public Health in obtaining birth certificates.

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

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