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Hirono Amendments Move Through Senate Committee

 A US Senate committee has approved a bill that would restore Medicaid eligibility for migrants from Micronesia, Sen. Mazie Hirono said today.

The measure, which now becomes part of immigrant reform legislation making its way through Congress, affects migrants from the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Republic of Palau, which are members of the Compact of Free Association with the US.

Although a law passed by Congress in 1996 prevented those Hawaii residents from receiving federally backed Medicaid benefits, the state of Hawaii has continued to provide them with health care at an estimated cost of $30 to $40 million annually.

Restoring their Medicaid eligibility would ease that financial burden on Hawaii, and has been a priority of Hawaii leaders for more than a decade, Hirono said in a statement.

It was most recently addressed in a bill introduced by former Sen. Daniel Akaka in 2011, the statement said.

The measure was one of two amendments introduced by Hirono and passed today by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The other would allow Hawaii’s longline fishing fleet to rotate foreign crews in Hawaii, rather than having to go to a foreign port as is currently required.

While mainland fleets can satisfy that requirement by going to ports in Canada or Mexico, Hawaii vessels must make a round-trip voyage of more than two weeks to reach the nearest foreign port. That puts Hawaii’s fleet at an economic disadvantage, Hirono said.