- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 19, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

A federal judge has dismissed a challenge to a law that requires millions of Medicaid beneficiaries to prove their citizenship before obtaining health benefits.

Congress passed legislation earlier this year designed to ensure that only citizens or qualified legal immigrants gain access to Medicaid, which is the state-federal health insurance program for the poor. More than 50 million people get health care through the program.

Several beneficiaries contended in a lawsuit that the new documentation requirements would endanger their Medicaid benefits. That contention was nothing more than conjecture, said U.S. District Judge Ronald A. Guzman.

Judge Guzman said in a 21-page ruling made public yesterday that the plaintiffs were seeking relief from regulations the Department of Health and Human Services approved concerning how it would implement the law. But the contested regulations do not create the documentation requirements, he said, but simply flesh them out.

“Absent a showing that their injuries can be traced to the regulations, which they have not made, plaintiffs do not have standing to pursue these claims,” Judge Guzman wrote.

Lawyers who are pursuing the case on behalf of Medicaid beneficiaries said they got a partial victory when the judge said he was likely to issue an injunction that would prevent 500,000 foster children from being subject to the documentation regulations.

“He said there is a strong likelihood of success on the merits for the foster children,” said John Mark Bouman, a lawyer at the Poverty Law Project in Chicago. “If he had also found they were about to be injured tomorrow, he would have entered an injunction. He just wasn’t convinced of that part yet.”

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