Public Charge Rule Poses Population Health Threat, H+H Leaders Say

by David Goldfarb

Elder Law Attorney in New YorkImmigration laws allow officials to deny green cards and visas to immigrants who are likely to become a public charge in the future. While the law did not specifically define what factors could lead to this determination, immigration officers have long used the guiding principle that a public charge is someone who may likely become or who has become dependent on the government to meet basic needs, including receiving welfare, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or financial assistance for long-term care. A public charge will also not have a financial sponsor who pledges to financially support them should they become unable to support themselves.

Recently, the Trump administration released a proposed rule that would substantially broaden the definition of “public charge,” which will likely increase the number of visa and green card denials. The new rule adds Medicaid, Medicare  low-income subsidies, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and possibly the Children’s Health Insurance Program to the program list that can lead to a determination of a public charge. This will allow discrimination against people with preexisting conditions or who require regular medical care for health conditions.

The proposal offers 15 factors that could count against an immigrant and indicate they may be a public charge:

  • Using public health benefits currently or in the past
  • Younger than 18 years of age
  • More than 61 years of age
  • Having any type of health condition that may interfere with the ability to attend work or school
  • Not having resources on hand to cover the costs of the medical condition
  • Not having private health insurance coverage
  • Having many children or other dependents
  • Having many financial liabilities
  • Having a low credit score
  • Not having employment experience or history
  • Not having the skills or education to keep a job
  • Not having a high school diploma or any higher education credits
  • Not being an English speaker
  • Requesting and receiving a fee waiver from DHS for the application
  • Having a financial sponsor who DHS believes is not likely to follow through with financial support

New York City Health and Hospitals leaders believe that should the rule become final, it would have a seriously adverse effect on public health, specifically the health of immigrants. Now, many immigrant families rely on Medicaid, SNAP, and similar programs for their healthcare costs, especially families with children or elderly relatives. The changes may make families too afraid of losing a green card or visa if they use such health benefits, and medical conditions may simply go untreated. Refusing proper health benefits and care will impact not only immigrants but the public health in New York City and across the United States.

Contact a New York Elder Law Attorney for More Information Today

At Goldfarb Abrandt Salzman & Kutzin LLP, we regularly advise people regarding Medicaid and other benefit eligibility, especially when it comes to future planning and long-term care. If you would like more information about eligibility, please contact us online or call (212) 387-8400.