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9th Circuit Hears Health Care Plea from Islanders Affected by Nuclear Bomb Testing (CN)  Opposing Views,  by Courthouse News   Sep 20, 2012 – An attorney for the the disease-prone residents of pacific island nations where the United States once tested nuclear bombs decried discrimination before the 9th Circuit.     Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau each were used by the U.S. military to test its developing nuclear arsenal in the 1940s and 1950s. Many residents claim that resulting health issues have lingered through the generations.

These countries have enjoyed a Compact of Free Association (COFA) with the United States since 1986, a relationship that allows their natives to live in Hawaii and other states as nonimmigrants, eligible for government assistance, including Medicaid.

In 1996, however, the Welfare Reform Act cut off Medicaid benefits for the islanders. States had the option to keep providing health care under their own programs, but Hawaii stopped giving COFA residents the benefits to which they were previously entitled in 2010.

That year marked the start of the Basic Health Hawaii (BHH) program, to which it switched most of the COFA residents. The move cut the care provided to the islanders quite severely, limiting patients to no more than 10 days of hospital care per year, 12 outpatient visits per year, six mental health visits and a maximum of four medication prescriptions per month.

A group of islanders, many of whom have persistent and serious health conditions, filed a class action against the state, alleging that the cut in benefits violated the equal-protection clause of the U.S. Constitution and the Americans with Disabilities Act.     Finding that Hawaii had “failed to identify any particular state interest that is advanced by their decision to exclude COFA Residents from the old programs,” U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright granted an injunction and ordered Hawaii to reinstate the former benefits.     Hawaii appealed to the 9th Circuit, a three-judge panel of which heard oral arguments in the case on Tuesday in San Francisco. ….

September 21, 2012 - Posted by | Legal, USA

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