- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 6, 2007

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington state is suing the federal government over a new rule that makes it tougher to get medical coverage for infants born in the United States to illegal aliens.

Gov. Christine Gregoire, a Democrat, the policy is immoral, adds to the cost of medical care and violates the infants’ constitutional rights.

The state sued the Department of Health and Human Services in U.S. District Court in Tacoma on Monday. The government has 60 days to respond.

The government declined comment on pending litigation, but defended the new policy.

The federal regulation, recently imposed on an emergency basis and soon to be permanent, requires the state to withhold Medicaid coverage of newborns until proof of citizenship is processed and approved. A similar requirement exists for adult and child immigrants who seek medical coverage.

Mrs. Gregoire said the rule on newborns makes no sense, because everyone born in the United States is automatically a citizen and the Constitution guarantees them the same services that all other Americans are eligible for.

In the case of the 8,000 infants who are born in Washington every year to poor illegal-alien parents, the state picks up the delivery cost and can attest that the children are, indeed, U.S.-born and thus citizens, she said.

The task of going through a maze of paperwork to determine citizenship and eligibility does nothing but discriminate against the baby and adds to health care costs if their parents are forced to use free care at a hospital emergency room, Mrs. Gregoire said.

“It’s a bureaucratic morass, legally wrong and, I absolutely believe from a moral perspective, it’s wrong, fundamentally wrong,” she said. “How in the world can a state discriminate against United States citizens simply because of something their parent is or is not? Let’s do the right thing by these children.”

Mrs. Gregoire said the state will ask the court to block the rule in Washington until the issue is resolved at trial. She said she isn’t expecting sanctions or penalties because the state is suing.

Jeff Nelligan, spokesman for the federal agency’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in the District said: “The guidelines for citizenship documentation were developed with extensive input from the states, experts, and an advisory group sponsored by the National Association of State Medicaid Directors and mirror those already being used by other federal agencies.

“As well, they also reflect methods being used [in] states such as New York, Montana and New Hampshire. The guidance will ensure that the states have maximum help in carrying out their objectives for our Medicaid recipients with the least possible burden on beneficiaries.”

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