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Public Charge rule changed to allow health benefits for immigrants in the US

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Recent legislation modified the Public Charge rule and it will make available more health benefits for immigrants in the US.

Thanks to a new ruling on Public Charge, effective from December 23, accessing programs like Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance won’t affect immigration status, a goal that many immigration advocates have long fought for.

Last week, the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) issued a new ruling applicable to immigrants and noncitizens who have received or wish to apply for health benefits provided by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or by similar State-run programs.

This new rule details how the DHS will interpret from now on the Public Charge rule, which used to work against immigrants who had no other choice than to apply for health benefits and other support programs. Now, the legislation makes it clear that individual factors, like disabilities or the use of benefits alone, will not lead to an immigration penalization.

Who is affected by the new ruling for Public Charge?

The new Public Charge rule applies to noncitizens or immigrants requesting admission to the United States, or to those who are applying for legal permanent residence from within the country. From now on, the DHS will not penalize individuals who need to access the network of health-related benefits and other supplemental government services available to them.

What health benefits can be accessed without penalization as an immigrant?

Most Medicaid benefits (except long-term institutionalization) and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) will not trigger a Public Charge penalization. The DHS has stated that other non-cash programs, such as food and nutrition assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), COVID-19 benefits, disaster assistance received under the Stafford Act, tax deductions or credits, government pensions, or other earned benefits will also be included in this list of allowed benefits.

How will the new Public Charge rule apply from now on?

Instead of excluding individuals and revoking their eligibility based on a single factor, now the DHS will carry out a “totality of the circumstances” analysis.

“People who qualify for Medicaid, CHIP, and other health programs should receive the care they need without fear of jeopardizing their immigration status. As we have experienced with COVID, it’s in the interest of all Americans when we utilize the health care and other services at our disposal to improve public health for everyone.”

Said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.

According to many immigration and human rights advocates, this new final rule will help immigrants get access to essential benefits without putting their status in danger. Healthcare is a human right, and as such it must be provided for regardless of the particular circumstances of any individual.

Many feel that this ruling will enforce constitutional rights for marginalized groups and minorities by helping the most vulnerable reach out to get the assistance they need. Advocate groups like the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) have stated their strong support for the measure.

A damaging immigration agenda reversed

This new ruling is a continuation of the course taken by the Biden administration since the beginning of their mandate, which pushed to reverse the Public Charge rule of 2019, enacted by the previous administration as part of an anti-immigration agenda. The previous ruling discouraged immigrants from getting health benefits and other types of government support that they sometimes needed desperately.

Out of fear, this effect extended even to other categories of noncitizens that are exempt from the Public Charge ground of inadmissibility, like refugees, asylum seekers, VAWA, or TPS beneficiaries, among others. We hope that the new, more comprehensive, and clarified ruling will help all immigrants reach the support they need and deserve.

If you are in need of immigration legal advice, do not hesitate to contact us! At the Law Office of Shelle-Ann Simon we have wide experience in immigration proceedings, family law, and personal injury and have successfully defended our clients for over 10 years. Contact us through our website or give us a call at (281) 606-0800!

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