Advocates across Colorado are interested in improving access to health coverage and care for Colorado’s immigrant populations. One barrier to improving access is state legislation referred to as House Bill 06-1023 (HB 1023). HB 1023 requires state and local government agencies, with some exceptions, to verify the lawful presence of applicants for public benefits.
The barriers resulting from the law are the result of commonly held misunderstandings more so than the law’s actual requirements. Federal law prohibits states, with some exceptions, from providing federal, state, and local public benefits to immigrants that do not have legal status. Colorado must adhere to the federal requirements and verify the lawful presence of applicants for public benefits regardless of whether HB 1023 is repealed.
HB 1023 generally requires state and local government entities to verify the lawful presence in the United States of each person over the age of 18 who applies for federal, state, or local public benefits.
The distinction between federal, state, and local public benefits is based on funding source. Federal public benefits, such as federal food assistance (a.k.a. SNAP) and Medicare, are funded with federal dollars. State public benefits, such as Colorado’s Old Age Pension program and Aid to the Needy Disabled program, are funded with state dollars. Medicaid, which is funded with state and federal dollars, is both a state and federal public benefit.
HB 1023 originally required that applicants produce a state driver’s license or ID card, a US military ID card, a US Coast Guard merchant mariner card, or a Native American tribal document, and sign an affidavit affirming citizenship or legal status. That list of acceptable documents was permanently expanded under HB 07-1314. Department of Revenue rules allows public benefit agencies to use any type of document allowed under federal law to verify lawful presence. This essentially makes HB 1023 duplicative of federal verification requirements.HB 1023 Verification of Lawful Presence