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US judge dismisses Medicaid challenge

Citizenship proof required for aid

WASHINGTON -- 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 healthcare through the program.

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

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; they 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," Guzman wrote.

Lawyers who are pursuing the case on behalf of Medicaid beneficiaries said they saw 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.

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