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Monday, April 21, 2014

Congress urged to restore Medicaid eligibility for FAS citizens

Micronesian leaders are urging the U.S. Congress to restore the Medicaid eligibility of citizens of the Freely Associated States who reside in the United States and its territories, a privilege taken from them in 1996.

During yesterday’s opening of the 13th Annual Micronesian Chief Executive Summit at the Fiesta Resort and Spa Saipan, officials of the Pacific Island Health Officers Association requested regional leaders to intercede for them to have this benefit restored.

The proposed resolution states that the Freely Associated States—the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau—are countries that have a unique political relationship with the U.S. under their respective Compact of Free Association arrangements.

“The compacts allow FAS citizens to freely enter, reside, and work in the U.S. and its territories and authorize their participation in certain federal programs, including eligibility in Medicaid as aliens permanently residing under color of law in the U.S. and territories,” the resolution states.

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996 disqualified FAS citizens from many public benefits, including Medicaid coverage.

It was also learned during yesterday’s presentation that Hawaii will soon discontinue hemodialysis and cancer treatment for FAS residents living in Hawaii.

“Access to health care services through the Medicaid program is needed to help individual states meet the health care needs of FAS citizens residing in the U.S. and its territories. They work, pay taxes, and want to contribute in a positive manner to the communities in which they reside, and the exclusion of said citizens from Medicaid coverage denies them an important and crucial safety net that is available to other people who are also lawful residents,” the resolution states.

The association pointed out that FAS citizens contribute to national defense by serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

The association urged Micronesian leaders to urge the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of the Interior, and the MCES Health Committee Secretariat to partner with MCES member states to identify and immediately implement effective strategies for preparing member states to benefit from the U.S. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Action of 2010.

This landmark health care reform legislation’s impacts and opportunities for MCES member states are not yet fully understood, according to the association.

“MCES member states need immediate support and technical assistance with fully leveraging the opportunities available through the Act,” the association stated.

The group also urged Micronesian leaders to take no action restricting the immigration provisions agreed to under the compacts.

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