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Adding kids to coverage advances; state committees vote to include Marshallese children in Medicaid

Rules extending Medicaid coverage to Marshallese children, as well as certain other children, cleared the state Legislature's public health committees on Tuesday.

The proposed rules, which were published for public comment in July, come after the passage of a resolution by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson during this year's session urging Hutchinson to extend the state's Medicaid coverage to Marshallese children.

A 1986 compact allows citizens of the Marshall Islands unrestricted travel to the United States, but they were made ineligible for federally supported Medicaid coverage by the welfare overhaul law signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996.

Another federal law, passed in 2009, gave states the option to extend Medicaid coverage to Marshallese children.

To do so, states also must eliminate a requirement that children who are legal residents from other countries must wait five years before becoming eligible for Medicaid.

Laura Kellams, Northwest Arkansas director for Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, has said the change would extend coverage to about 2,000 Marshallese children from low-income families as well as a smaller number of non-Marshallese foreigners who have been in the country for fewer than five years.

People in the United States illegally are not eligible for Medicaid.

According to the state Department of Human Services, the Medicaid coverage, which would start Jan. 1, would cost $714,189 through June 30 and about $4.5 million in the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Dave Mills, program administrator in the Human Services Department's County Operations Division, told members of the House and Senate public health committees on Tuesday that none of that expense would come from state tax money.

Under the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the federal government has paid the full cost of coverage for children in the state's ARKids First Medicaid program since 2015.

With no lawmakers objecting, Sen. Cecile Bledsoe, chairman of the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee, declared the rules "reviewed."

The rules will go to the Legislative Council's Administrative Rules and Regulations Subcommittee and the full council for approval next week.

Metro on 10/11/2017

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