From City Hall:
New York State has found a loophole in the federal health care reforms that it wants to use to cover a group that Washington specifically has not, of non-citizens since before the 1996 welfare reforms.
The same loophole, though, could also present a challenge to the state’s constitution, if the federal government decides to cover fewer people than the state currently requires, government watchdogs said.
At issue is whether a class of non-citizens known as PRUCOL (persons residing under color of law)—a designation that includes legally present, undocumented and in-between immigrants under federal laws, but recognized under state laws— are covered under the new guidelines for the state’s high-risk pool program, the temporary reform that provides coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, until insurance exchanges go into effect in 2014. The temporary program is set to go into effect this October.
These non-citizens can include people not currently covered by programs like Medicare, such as people waiting to receive immigration statuses from the U.S.
Customs and Immigration Services. PRUCOL residents are already covered under New York State’s expansive health care laws. Immigration advocates say the challenge is to make sure the federal reforms do not shrink coverage for them.
When passing the reforms in the spring, Congress decided to cover all persons “lawfully present” in the United States. But Washington has yet to issue a permanent ruling on who, exactly, falls under that umbrella.
“There’s sort of a question mark about what that means,” said Elisabeth Benjamin, vice president of health initiatives at the Community Service Society.
And that question mark could provide a golden opportunity for broadening federal benefits for non-citizens, said Sonal Ambegaokar, a health policy attorney at the National Immigration Law Center.
“There’s no set list for ‘lawfully present.’ We suggested, ‘Here are a few categories you may want to consider adding,’ as we have those immigrants already enrolled in state Medicaid,” Ambegaokar said.