Old farts need a government issued photo ID to get Medicaid

  Medicaid enrollees nationwide to provide picture identification and proof of citizenship to receive benefits.


Congress produces a plan to protect us from elderly ladies

Jun. 20, 2006 12:00 AM

This is what hysteria gets us.

We demand action on all aspects of illegal immigration, and Congress responds in the way that only Congress can - by messing things up.

Apparently, the folks we sent to Washington believe the best way to prevent non-citizens from receiving government-funded medical care is to impose nearly impossible burdens and life-threatening stress on the homeless, mentally ill and elderly.

People like Jeanmarie Elkins' mother, a 92-year-old woman living with a number of other aged and infirm retirees in a Valley nursing home.

"I told the director of the home that we need to hire a bunch of ambulances, load up these old, sick people and drive them over to the (Motor Vehicle Division)," she said. "We'll tell people that we've come to get some picture IDs. Maybe then someone in charge in the federal government will pay attention to what is going on."

The new rules are part of the Deficit Reduction Act signed by President Bush in February. The Arizona delegation split along party lines. The Republicans voted yes, except for Rep. Jim Kolbe, who didn't vote. The Democrats voted no.

The law is supposed to save hundreds of millions of dollars and includes a new rule that would require roughly 50 million Medicaid enrollees nationwide to provide picture identification and proof of citizenship to receive benefits.

There are no studies indicating that those who aren't citizens are abusing these programs. But, hey, that never stopped Congress from doing what they do best, which is to create whole new problems by trying to "solve" nonexistent ones.

Under the new law, those who receive Medicaid and are on state-related programs such as the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) for the poor and physically disabled will need to provide a birth certificate or other documents with photo identification. The new rules take effect July 1 for new members and for those who are coming up for renewal, like Elkins' mom. Eventually, every recipient must meet the new requirements.

"A lot of these people were born at home and have never had a birth certificate," Elkins said. "My mother hasn't driven for years, so she doesn't have a picture ID. What are these politicians thinking?"

California officials have announced they will delay implementing the new law. They worry not only about the elderly and infirm but also about the impact the new rules could have on local hospitals.

As one hospital administrator said, "If they have no coverage, they will find their care in the emergency room, where they can't be turned away."

Arizona plans to implement the law, but Rainey Day Holloway, a spokeswoman for AHCCCS, told me: "No one is going to be taken off the rolls. On the guidelines there is a section that says if you are providing what are called reasonable opportunity to present documents, then you are going to stay enrolled."

Answers to some basic questions are available over the Internet at www.azahcccs.gov. The local phone number for AHCCCS is (602) 417-7000. Outside of Maricopa County, it is 1-800-962-6690. State officials say they'll do all they can to help Arizona recipients find the paperwork that they need. They also believe that the rules still might change.

But, as Holloway said: "It's scaring a lot of people. From a personal standpoint, I understand. I have a mom and brother who are both disabled, and I know how people can get freaked out with changes."

Reach Montini at (602) 444-8978 or ed.montini@arizonarepublic.com. Read his blog at montiniblog.azcentral.com.