New Children’s Health Law Reduces the Harmful Impact of Documentation Requirements

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Center of Budget and Policy Priorities

A federal law enacted in February will reduce the number of U.S. children who are denied health care coverage because they lack documents verifying their citizenship, according to this summary of the law.

The Children’s Health Insurance Reauthorization Act of 2009 (CHIPRA) requires states to provide Medicaid services while parents attempt to obtain documents (such as passports or birth certificates) proving that their children are U.S. citizens. The new law reverses legislation passed in 2006 that made it illegal for states to enroll children in the program without these documents – a provision that prevented “significant numbers of eligible U.S. citizens” from receiving Medicaid, the report said.

Under the new law, states must provide Medicaid coverage to children for up to 45 days while parents attempt to obtain citizenship documents. If parents don’t comply, states can terminate the coverage. Infants whose mothers were receiving Medicaid at the time of their births are now exempt from the documentation requirement. The law also directs states to accept tribal identification documents as proof of citizenship, because many American Indians do not possess birth certificates.

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