May 31, 2013

“Hirono fights for migrant access to Medicaid”

KITV Profiles Senator Hirono’s Immigration Reform Measure That Restores Medicaid Eligibility For COFA Migrants, Saves State Millions Each Year

HONOLULU – Senator Mazie K. Hirono met with Hawaii’s health care providers at the Kokua Kalihi Valley Comprehensive Health Care Center yesterday and listened as Hawaii health care experts explained how Hirono’s measure restoring Medicaid eligibility for COFA migrants would save the state millions each year. Earlier this month, Hirono persuaded her colleagues to include the measure and a number of others that help Hawaii in the immigration reform bill currently being debated on the Senate floor. Hawaii’s KITV profiled yesterday’s visit and talked to the advocates who were present.

You can watch the segment here:

“It’s mission critical. There’s no more important issue facing us right now,” Dr. David Derauf of the Kokua Kalihi Valley Comprehensive Health Care Center told KITV. “Somewhere between 25 and 30 percent of our patients are coming from those nations. If we are unable to provide them decent medical care – and we are the provider of last resort – where are they going to go?”

In a statement, the Health Care Association of Hawaii explained how Hirono’s measure would save the state millions each year.

“Hawaii invests an estimated $40 million dollars for their care annually, but only recoups a quarter of that in federal funds,” said George Greene, president and CEO of the Health Care Association of Hawaii. “This legislation would reduce those shortfalls and help Hawaii health providers to continue delivering quality care to this diverse group of patients.”

In 1996, Congress passed a law that made migrants from Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall islands who now live in Hawaii ineligible for federally backed Medicaid funding. But Hawaii has continued to provide health care services to these families even without federal support. Each year, the state spends an estimated $30-40 million to provide health care to these families. By making these individuals eligible for Medicaid, Hirono’s amendment requires the federal government to once again share the cost of providing health care to these individuals. Restoring Medicaid eligibility for these compact migrants has been a priority of Hawaii leaders for more than a decade. Senator Akaka last introduced a bill in 2011 that would have restored migrants’ Medicaid eligibility.