September 19, 2019

Trump Administration Changes to “Public Charge” Policies Could Negatively Impact Your Patients

Last month, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) finalized changes to an existing reg that allows the federal agency to consider whether an immigrant would likely at any time become a “public charge” (i.e rely on public assistance programs) when determining whether that individual is eligible for a green card. Specifically, DHS expanded the definition of “public charge” to include new programs, including non-emergency Medicaid, public housing, and Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps).

ACEP strongly opposes these changes as we believe that they will deter people from enrolling in Medicaid and seeking care for fear of losing their ability to receive a green card. When people avoid getting medical care, such as treatment for communicable diseases, it not only impacts the individual, but could cause a public health crisis—potentially straining our already overworked emergency departments.

When DHS originally proposed the changes at the end of last year, ACEP submitted formal comments to urge DHS not to change the definition of public charge.

Now that the agency has finalized its proposed changes, over a dozen states are suing to block the new rules from taking effect. Further, some members of Congress are looking to block any federal funding from being used to implement the changes. Recently, Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and 26 of her colleagues introduced a bill that, if enacted, would make it extremely difficult for the Trump Administration to operationalize their new policies.

ACEP will continue to track the progress of these lawsuits and legislation. We will also monitor how the changes will impact millions of Americans’ decisions of whether to enroll in essential programs like Medicaid. As advocates for your patients, it is critical for you to be aware of federal policies like this that could have a direct effect on their health and wellbeing.

Until next week, this is Jeffrey saying, enjoy reading regs with your eggs!

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