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Finance Panel Fends Off New Photo ID Requirement in Medicaid and CHIP

The Senate finance panel just shot down an amendment to the committee’s health reform bill that would have required beneficiaries of Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program to show a photo ID in order to enroll. Sen. Charles Grassley (Iowa), the senior Republican on the Finance Committee and sponsor of the proposal, said the new ID requirement is necessary to prevent identity theft.

Democrats disagreed, arguing that it would create an additional barrier preventing the nation’s poorest citizens from accessing care.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) characterized the Grassley proposal as “a solution in search of a problem.” Similar requirements, he said, have kept citizens from getting Medicaid coverage for years, particularly on Indian reservations where the poverty is endemic and ID documents scarce. The fraud in Medicaid is not patient fraud, but provider fraud, added Bingaman, a former attorney general who claimed to have plenty of experience tackling the problem.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) echoed those concerns, wondering aloud how many kids have photo IDs? “This puts children at risk,” he concluded.

There is good reason for the Democrats’ concerns. A 2005 law created strict new proof-of citizenship requirements for Medicaid eligibility, forcing potential beneficiaries to produce original-copy citizenship and identification documents. Sponsors said the change was designed to protect taxpayers by preventing illegal aliens from accessing the federal-state program. But Medicaid directors nationwide have said the hurdles have kept many more citizens than illegals from receiving coverage.

The committee vote to kill the Grassley amendment was 10 to 13, strictly along party lines.

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