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Under longstanding immigration policy, to be considered a “public charge” one must be likely to become primarily dependent on the government to meet basic needs. As it now stands, receiving government-issued financial assistance benefits such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or long-term care benefits through Medicaid, may cause someone to be deemed a public charge and therefore denied a green card or visa.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently proposed a rule that – if finalized – will greatly expand the scope of benefits that will lead an individual to be considered a public charge. Benefits such as the Part D low-income subsidy (“Extra Help”) for Medicare’s Part D drug benefit, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP), non-emergency Medicaid, and Section 8 and other forms of housing assistance would be counted. Older adults and their families rely on these programs to stay healthy and independent in their communities for as long as possible.

The Center is opposed to this proposed rule, and joined over 216,000 other organizations and individuals in submitting comments online. The proposal would seriously harm older immigrants and their families, localities, states, and health care providers and facilities. Drafted in collaboration with other advocacy organizations, the Center added information specifically about the Medicare program, including the financial standing of beneficiaries, and the need for many individuals to rely on the Part D low-income subsidy (LIS) to cover prescription drug premiums and cost-sharing, Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs) to cover Part A and B premiums and cost-sharing, and full Medicaid to cover additional services not covered by Medicare.

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