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On August 14, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) posted a final rule to the Federal Register that amends DHS regulations regarding how an application for legal immigration into this country will be assessed, expanding the government’s ability to deny entry based on the possible future use of services like Medicaid. The “Public Charge” rule states that determinations can include whether the applicant “is likely at any time to become a public charge,” or rely on public benefits.

The rule broadens the programs that the federal government will consider in public charge determinations to include previously excluded health, nutrition, and housing programs, and outlines the factors the federal government will consider in making a public charge consideration.

The rule will affect over 10 million documented immigrants. According to an August 2019 Kaiser Family Foundation fact sheet, the rule will likely increase confusion and fear broadly across immigrant families about using public programs for themselves and their children, regardless of whether they are actually affected by the changes. Kaiser also expects the change will reduce enrollment in necessary programs by 19 million citizen-children of immigrant parents.

The Center for Medicare Advocacy is extremely concerned that this rule will result in working families, children, older adults and people with disabilities losing access to essential health care.

The rule states that it will take effect for applications submitted on or after October 15, 2019.  However, it is important to note that as of August 14, 2019, 13 states have filed a lawsuit against the administration’s final rule, stating that it violates the Immigration and Nationality Act, and two counties in California filed suit for a temporary injunction, with additional litigation expected.

Health advocates are also mobilizing to block this rule. The Center for Medicare Advocacy urges the administration to rethink and rescind this harsh rule.

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