Settlement may restore EMA benefit

Patients whose Emergency Medical Assistance benefits were cut back earlier this year may have their coverage restored under a settlement reached with the Department of Human Services.

The state late last year informed 2,300 non-citizens that only emergency care would be covered, and care for things like chemotherapy and dialysis.

Under the terms of a settlement between the Department of Human Services and immigration advocates, the state agrees to restore care in instances where denying it could result in a medical emergency within 48 hours.

John Keller of the Immigrant Law Center says seriously ill patients, such as those chemotherapy, dialysis or ventilators, will benefit from the settlement.

"We think it's going to result in people who are really vulnerable and sick getting recertified for care," Keller said.

The Immigrant Law Center brought the case on behalf of a patient who had experienced an aneurysm while giving birth, and was under around-the-clock care in a nursing home.

"We're fortunate and hopeful that this new process and this new determination is going to restore benefits not only for our plaintiff but for people similarly situated — people who but for this change would be facing very uncertain futures and uncertain health care," Keller said.

Last summer's budget agreement cut state spending on EMA by $15 million, reducing it by a third. The settlement does not indicate how the state will pay for the restored care.

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