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Federal Health Exchange Asks 310,000 Consumers for Citizenship Data

By Kerry Young, CQ Health Beat Associate Editor

August 12, 2014 -- The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said last week that it asked about 310,000 consumers in letters to swiftly respond to questions about their citizenship or immigration status or risk losing health insurance provided through the health law's federal marketplace.

"These notices remind them that in order to keep their coverage they have to submit the outstanding documents by Sept. 5," said CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner in a statement, adding that the coverage could expire by Sept. 30 for those who fail to meet the deadline.

CMS said that it has made some progress in whittling down the number of applications that triggered questions about applicants' citizenship and immigration status. The agency said that it has closed about 450,000 of these cases, and another 210,000 are moving toward completion. The cases often stem from a glitch with an application, such as incomplete or inaccurate information about a Social Security number or permanent resident card. Such inconsistencies don't necessarily mean that an applicant doesn't qualify for aid, CMS said.

The agency said two more attempts will be made to call people whose applications have unresolved questions, and one more e-mail will be sent. CMS also is counting on help from community health centers in getting people to send in needed paperwork.

"Since this is an urgent matter, we are activating our networks on the ground to reach people directly in the communities where they live. Whether it is online, via our call center, or with one of our local partners, consumers will have a number of ways to find the help they need to continue their coverage," Tavenner said.

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