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High court rules for state on medical benefits for COFA migrants

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The state is not required to provide medical benefits to noncitizens in Hawaii covered under the Compact of Free Association with the U.S., according to a U.S. Supreme Court decision Monday.

The decision “validates the state’s authority to determine the level of health care coverage provided to noncitizens who are ineligible for federal Medicaid,” said  Attorney General David M. Louie and Director of Human Services Patricia McManaman in a press release. “The high court’s decision also confirms that the state did not discriminate when it exercised that authority in 2010,” they said.

According to the state, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal in Korab v. McManaman, challenging the state’s decision to reduce  health benefits for migrants from Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands.

“This decision is important because it confirms that the state’s actions were not discriminatory,” Louis said. “But it is also important to know that the state intends to continue providing significant assistance to these individuals.”  

COFA migrants are allowed to travel to this country without visa or time constraints in an agreement forged after the U.S. conducted nuclear weapons tests in the Marshall Islands through the late 1950s. 

According to Director McManaman, “The state’s plan going forward includes a program that provides Medicaid-like coverage to our neediest aged, blind, and disabled noncitizens. Coverage for children and pregnant adults will remain unchanged. The plan also includes a transition period for other non-pregnant adult noncitizens to obtain health insurance through the Hawaii Health Connector, and a state-funded program to help these very low-income noncitizens pay their share of their health insurance premiums. This ensures that needy noncitizens who are ineligible for Medicaid still have access to quality, affordable health insurance.”

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