MEDICAL PROVIDERS OPPOSE ADMINISTRATION'S PROPOSED PUBLIC CHARGE RULE THAT COULD DETER MILLIONS FROM OBTAINING NECESSARY MEDICAL CARE

            Several medical associations, physicians (particularly pediatricians), clinics, and other providers submitted comments opposing the Administration’s proposed Public Charge Rule in the public comment period that ended on December 10, 2018.  The medical community’s comments expressed concern that the proposed rule would deter millions of people from enrolling in Medicaid and from receiving medical care by making it more difficult for individuals following the requirements for legal immigration to enter the country or to obtain permanent legal status.

             The proposed rule would do this by expanding the definition of “public charge” to include Medicaid, Medicare Part D (prescription drugs) subsidies, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), and section 8 and other housing benefits.  Under a complicated formula that includes an immigrant’s income, the proposed rule would give great discretion to United Stated Citizenship and Immigration Services officers to reject the applications of immigrants who used any of these benefits over specified periods of time.

             Although it has not yet been finalized or implemented, the proposed rule has already caused legal immigrants (and their American citizen children) to withdraw from benefit programs and to forego necessary medical care for fear of jeopardizing their immigration status. As some of the medical community’s comments pointed out, this will lead to an increase in the uninsured population and could ultimately jeopardize public health.

             In total, over 210,000 comments were submitted to the Department of Homeland Security.  As a representative example of comments expressing the medical community’s concerns with the proposed rule, the comments submitted by the California Medical Association are linked here.

             The Department of Homeland Security is expected to issue a final rule in the next few months, which would become effective 60 days after publication.