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Grassley Measure Focuses on Newborns' Medicaid Eligibility

March 5, 2007 – Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, has introduced legislation he said would "fix glitches" with laws regarding Medicaid eligibility for newborns.

Grassley said in a news release that procedure implementations required by last year's budget savings bill (PL 109-171) have "erroneously inhibited" access to Medicaid for some newborns. Grassley said the provisions in question were intended to prevent ineligible adults from obtaining Medicaid coverage.

Some hospital and children's health groups have accused state Medicaid officials of incorrectly using the budget savings bill, also known as the "Deficit Reduction Act," as a way to deny Medicaid health coverage to babies born to undocumented parents, even though the children are U.S. citizens. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) officials have said children are not being denied Medicaid coverage under the new law.

The American Academy of Pediatrics said Monday that it appreciates Grassley's efforts and is reviewing his legislation.

In a Senate floor speech March 2 about his legislation (S 751), Grassley said the budget savings bill did not change "two fundamental facts: the first, the mother—regardless of documentation status—was eligible for Medicaid at the time of the child's birth; and, second, the child is a citizen."

Grassley said while he supports provisions in the budget savings bill that require states to more fully document Medicaid applicants' citizenship, such steps are not necessary for newborns. "CMS and the states should recognize what is to me, common sense: A child born in the United States whose birth was paid for by Medicaid is a citizen under current law. No further documentation necessary."

Separately, Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, has introduced legislation (HR 1238) that would require states to provide one year of automatic Medicaid eligibility to babies whose mothers are sufficiently poor that the baby's birth was covered by Medicaid.

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