Hawai‘i Delegation Introduces Bill Reinstating Medicaid to COFA Migrants

May 12, 2015, 1:56 PM HST (Updated May 12, 2015, 1:58 PM)

Hawai‘i lawmakers have introduced a bill to reinstate Medicaid eligibility for migrants from Micronesia, Palau, and the Marshall Islands, or Compact of Free Association (COFA) migrants.

Senator Mazie K. Hirono, Senator Brian Schatz, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, and Congressman Mark Takai presented the new legislation at the U.S. Senate.  The bill addresses a federal law passed in 1996 making COFA migrants ineligible for federal Medicaid funds.  Since losing federal support, Hawai‘i has spent an estimated $30 -$40 million per year to provide healthcare for COFA families.

Under the “Restore Medicaid to Compact of Free Association Migrants Act,” the federal government would be required to share the cost of providing health care.

Senator Hirono commented, “In the history of our country, many migrant groups have had growing pains and it is our duty as a nation of migrants and immigrants to welcome new people and their families to our communities.”

Congresswoman Gabbard stated, “This bill will right a wrong that has gone on far too long.”

Congressman Takai said, “COFA migrants prior to 1996 had access to Medicaid, which allowed them to receive much needed medical attention to address health concerns linked to the nuclear testing conducted by the United States.”

COFA advocates in Hawai‘i praised the Delegation’s introduction of the new bill.


“As someone who has worked closely with the Micronesian community in Hawai‘i, both as an attorney and as a fellow organizer, this bill is meaningful both materially and symbolically. It will undoubtedly save lives, and it also acknowledges the many contributions of the COFA Micronesian nations to U.S. interests,” said Dina Shek, Legal Director of the Medical-Legal Partnership for Children in Hawai‘i.




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