TULSA — Almost 6,000 SoonerCare enrollees lost coverage Dec. 1 because they were unable to provide proof of citizenship, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority announced at its monthly meeting Thursday. Most of the 5,841 people who lost Medicaid benefits through the SoonerCare program are U.S. citizens, the authority said in a news release. The federal Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 changed how states must verify citizenship for Medicaid services. U.S. citizenship has always been a requirement to qualify for Medicaid. Federal law, however, now requires a birth certificate or other documentation as proof.Comments
How to reapplyNico Gomez, director of governmental and public affairs for the authority, said the simplest way to reapply for services is to bring a birth certificate to a local Department of Human Services office. SoonerCare enrollees having trouble putting together their documents should contact DHS. Those at risk of losing coverage may reapply during December without being dropped. Those at risk in the coming months may reapply in the month they are to be dropped. "The eligibility starts in the month that you apply or you reapply,” Gomez said, predicting some 5,500 people would lose coverage in January. Many who lost coverage had trouble getting birth certificates from other states or moved and didn't know their coverage was in danger, Gomez said. Previously, SoonerCare enrollees had to attest they were U.S. citizens. The health care authority has worked in partnership with the state's social service agencies to comply with the changes and ensure Medicaid recipients meet requirements. In November, according to the release, the authority mailed final-notice letters. Those who lost coverage were notified at least four times before the cut-off. Starting on July 7, recipients were required to provide proof of citizenship. Oklahoma DHS staff also called recipients and made home visits in an attempt to educate them about changes. "It is important to raise this issue so people understand the continuity of their health care is at stake. I expect we will learn like other states have that nearly all of these individuals are in fact U.S. citizens, but unfortunately they have not provided the necessary proof to maintain their coverage,” authority CEO Mike Fogarty said in the release.
Call DHS immediatelyThe authority suggests those who receive letters and have proper documentation call their local DHS office as soon as possible. Each month another group of people will reach the end of the time they have to prove citizenship. The number of people affected each month will vary and likely will decrease, according to the release. Fogarty predicted people would bring necessary paperwork and re-enroll when they need medical help. "Unfortunately,” he said, "some of these folks will end up seeking medical care in the emergency room when they get really sick without any way to pay for it, and that cost is shifted to everyone.” Recipients may prove citizenship and identity with a U.S. passport, certificate of naturalization or certificate of citizenship. If they do not have these documents, they may use a U.S. birth certificate and driver's license or state ID. Other acceptable proof is listed at www.ohca.org. Proof of citizenship and identity for newborns of SoonerCare members is not required until they are 1 year old.
Who's affectedDemographics of those who lost coverage: •62 percent are children •38 percent are adults •58 percent are white •18 percent are black •13 percent are American Indian •10 percent are Hispanic •1 percent are Asian Source: Oklahoma Health Care Authority