In early September, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) amended its regulations to prescribe how it determines whether noncitizens are likely to become a public charge. A “public charge” is a noncitizen who has received government assistance for an extended period. A noncitizen who is likely at any time to become a public charge is generally inadmissible to the United States, as well as ineligible for lawful permanent residency. This change will expand access to care and improve health equity, allowing noncitizens equal access to health care treatment. WSHA is clear that we believe a family’s socioeconomic status should have no bearing on the ability to live a healthy life.
Under the prior administration, “government assistance” included Medicaid, food stamps and housing assistance. These amendments return to the pre-2019 standard, meaning DHS will no longer consider non-cash government benefits in determining whether a noncitizen is likely to become a public charge.
These changes will stem the chilling effect the 2019 Final Rule had on people seeking health care and allow immigrants to lead healthy, productive lives. WSHA consistently opposed the 2019 Final Rule, both for its impact on hospitals and its impact on immigrant individuals and families. This codification of the narrow understanding of “public charge” will limit, if not avoid, those negative impacts. This final rule is effective Dec, 23 and will apply to any applications postmarked on or after that date. (Anna Long)