LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Arkansas Department of Human Services is submitting a proposal that would allow Marshallese children living in the state to become eligible for Medicaid coverage.

The proposal would also eliminate a requirement for other legal immigrant children to live in the U.S. for five years before becoming eligible for Medicaid, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/2h2Db0A ) reported. Children living in the country illegally wouldn’t be eligible.

The department published the proposed regulations last week. They’ll be submitted to the federal government and the state Legislative Council on the state Medicaid program website.

The department will accept comments on the proposed changes through Aug. 21.

Human Services Department spokesman Brandi Hinkle said the changes could take effect by Jan. 1 if they’re approved.

A 1986 compact allows citizens of the Marshall Islands unrestricted travel to the U.S., but a welfare overhaul law signed in 1996 by then-President Bill Clinton bans them from federally supported Medicaid coverage.

There are an estimated 8,000 to 12,000 Marshallese living in northwest Arkansas.

The proposed regulations would assist about 2,000 Marshallese children from low-income families and a small number of non-Marshallese immigrants who have been in the country for fewer than five years, said Laura Kellams, Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families’ director for the region.

Spokesman Kendall Marr said Gov. Asa Hutchinson supports the proposal.


Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com