Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Under Trump proposal immigrants who receive government supported healthcare might be deemed a public charge

The Trump administration is considering a policy change that might discourage immigrants who are seeking permanent residency from using government-supported health care, a scenario that is alarming some doctors, hospitals and patient advocates.

“We are very concerned that this rule, if finalized, would have a significant impact on health in this country,” says Erin O’Malley, senior director of policy for America’s Essential Hospitals, who discussed the plan with Trump administration officials in mid-April.

Under the proposed plan, a lawful immigrant holding a visa could be passed over for getting permanent residency — a green card — if they use Medicaid, a subsidized Obamacare plan, food stamps, tax credits or a list of other non-cash government benefits, according to a draft of the plan published by The Washington Post. Even letting a child who is a U.S. citizen use such benefits could jeopardize a parent’s chances of attaining lawful residency.

Health advocates say such a policy could frighten immigrants into avoiding government-supported health coverage, creating public health problems that could be dire in the long run for patients and for hospitals. If enacted, Trump’s proposal would label anyone who had recent or ongoing use of a non-cash government benefit in the previous 36 months a likely “public charge,” and therefore inadmissible to the U.S.

Applicants who have “expensive health conditions” such as cancer, heart disease or “mental disorders” and who have used a subsidized program would also get a heavily weighted negative mark on their application. The change however, would not affect some immigrants — such as refugees and people granted political asylum, nor would it apply to undocumented immigrants.

The leaked proposal says it is meant to ensure that people seeking to “change their nonimmigrant status are self-sufficient.” It notes “relevant congressional policy statements,” including one that says “the availability of public benefits [should] not constitute an incentive for immigration to the United States.”