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Committee Approved Measure That Makes Migrants From Micronesia, Palau & the Marshall Islands Eligible For Medicaid, Saving Hawaii Millions Each Year; Another Hirono Measure Adopted Today Would Fix Rules That Disproportionately Impact Hawaii Fishing Vessels

WASHINGTON, DC – The Senate Judiciary Committee today approved two measures offered by Senator Mazie K. Hirono that will save local taxpayers millions of dollars and help a critical Hawaii industry. The measures, long-sought by Hawaii leaders, would save the state of Hawaii millions of dollars each year by restoring Medicaid eligibility for workers from Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands and would fix rules that disproportionately impact Hawaii’s fishing industry.

“Both of these amendments address longstanding issues that impact Hawaii, and getting these measures included in immigration reform legislation is a big victory for our state,” said Hirono. “My amendment restoring Medicaid eligibility for compact migrants would save Hawaii taxpayers millions each year, and another measure the committee adopted today would fix rules that negatively impact Hawaii fishermen.”

Below read summaries of the two Hirono amendments adopted today by the Senate Judiciary Committee and are now included in the Senate’s immigration reform legislation:

Restoring Medicaid Eligibility For Compact Migrants: 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.

Allowing Hawaii Fishing Vessels To Temporarily Rotate Foreign Crews: Hawaii and Hawaii residents depend on fresh, locally caught fish. Because of Hawaii’s geographic isolation, Hawaii’s longline fishing fleet faces a unique competitive disadvantage. Federal law requires U.S. fleets to rotate their nonimmigrant foreign crews at foreign ports. While mainland fleets can comply with this requirement by rotating foreign crews at ports in Canada or Mexico, Hawaii-based vessels must make a round-trip voyage of more than two weeks to reach the nearest foreign port. Senator Hirono’s amendment would allow U.S. vessels to temporarily rotate their nonimmigrant foreign crew in Hawaii, the same flexibility currently available to U.S. ships rotating crew in Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.