‘Public charge’ rule is bad for everyone

August 14, 2019

The Trump administration announced this week it is moving forward with a controversial rule that would potentially deny legal immigrants green cards or change legal immigrants’ statuses if they receive government benefits. The rule is aimed at discouraging low-income immigrants from using government programs — such as Medicaid, food stamps or housing assistance — lest they be considered a “public charge.” The new rule would allow the U.S. to “insist that immigrants who come to the country [are] self-sufficient and would not be a drain on society.”

The rule, scheduled to take effect in October, is terrible public policy. As we noted in our comment letter opposing the rule last December, it would increase uninsured rates and in turn trigger a rise in uncompensated care costs. This would de-stabilize hospitals, particularly in more rural areas. More to the point, the rule’s impact undermines immigrants’ ability to lead healthy, productive lives, and the chilling effect will transcend those who are directly implicated by the policy, reaching members of their families and larger communities.

The rule’s public health implications are dire as well. It will endanger maternal and infant health and heighten the risk of preventable communicable diseases spreading without the proper treatment. It could also shift major health care costs from the federal government to state and local governments.

In health care, we share a common goal of creating healthier communities, allowing people to live their lives to the fullest. We believe everyone should have equal access to health care treatment. We believe that your family’s socioeconomic status should have no bearing on your ability to live a healthy life.

This new regulation deliberately works against our efforts to address the health disparities that plague our marginalized communities.

The fight over this rule isn’t over. In fact, it is just beginning. Washington State is already co-leading a multistate lawsuit, and Congress is considering legislation to stop the rule. We are thankful for the American Hospital Association’s leadership on this issue, and we will continue to stand with them against this harmful rule.


Cassie Sauer
WSHA President & CEO


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