Writing for the Associated Press, Mark Niesse digs into a dispute between the state of Hawaii, the federal government and chronically ill immigrants from three Pacific nations over who should foot the bill for their health care. At issue is a 1986 treaty that guarantees migration rights and assistance to folks from Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau and to help compensate for Cold War-era nuclear testing in the Pacific.
Under the treaty, many ill islanders have relocated to Hawaii, which offers better health care and quality of life than they could find in their homelands. They come from populations with “high rates of leukemia and thyroid, lung, stomach, skin and brain cancers,” at least some of which is linked to radioactive fallout from nuclear testing.
Nobody is yet sure where the debate will lead, but Niesse maps out where the battle lines are drawn:
The state of Hawaii sought to save $15 million by cutting health services to more than 7,000 migrants, who are treated as legal residents lacking citizenship. Their ambiguous status, as well as their cost to taxpayers, led to the state’s proposed health reductions.
Both the Hawaii government and the migrants argue that the U.S. government should take responsibility for their health treatments.
But federal Medicaid funding to the migrant islanders was slashed when welfare reform passed in 1996, resulting in Hawaii picking up the tab. U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat representing Hawaii, said he is trying to reinstate Medicaid benefits for compact migrants as part of the pending health care legislation.