JThe Department of Homeland Security issued a new rule Thursday aimed at revising a Trump administration policy that effectively discouraged noncitizen immigrants from using government-funded health services.
The new rule clarifies that DHS will not categorize non-citizens as “public charges” — a classification that could get them denied green cards — based on their use of health-related benefits and government services.
“People eligible for Medicaid, CHIP and other health programs should receive the care they need without fear of compromising their immigration status,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said. in a press release. “As we have experienced with Covid, it is in the interest of all Americans to use the health care and other services available to us to improve the public health of all.”
The Trump administration’s 2019 rule, which was overturned by a federal court in 2021, redefined a “public charge” as an “alien who receives one or more public benefits for more than 12 months in total during a period of 36 months (such as, for example, receiving two benefits in one month counts as two months). It also expanded the definition of public benefits to include programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, several housing programs, and other health and nutrition programs.
Under the new rule, which takes effect Dec. 23, protected health benefits include the Children’s Health Insurance Program and most Medicaid benefits, except for long-term residency in places such as retirement homes at government expense. Additionally, DHS said it would not consider SNAP benefits or Pandemic Assistance, as well as several other non-monetary benefits provided by other government agencies, as public benefits that would be deducted from non- citizens in eligibility for the green card.
“This new final rule from the Biden administration largely codifies the principles that are in the 1999 policy guidance and are truly grounded in more than 140 years of case law, policy and practice,” said Tanya Broder, attorney. senior at the National Center for Immigration Law.
The 2019 rule expansion is proven to have created barriers to health care. In a 2019 study, undocumented immigrants who read the proposed version of the new rule were statistically less likely to say they would seek such government health services. A 2021 Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that 26% of potentially undocumented Hispanic adults said they or a family member had abstained from a government assistance program in the past three years due to immigration fears, compared to 3% of adults. American Hispanic citizens.
Broder said she is encouraged that the concerns expressed by state and local governments, health and social service providers, and immigrant groups and individuals have been heard.
“The 2019 Trump Rule… disproportionately discriminated against people based on their race, [and] economic status,” she said. “We are happy to see that the Biden rule can address some of these disparities and also clarify that people can use the health care, nutrition, housing and other services for which they are eligible without fear that it will affects their immigration status by making a public charge.
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