A series of federal judges on October 11 stayed a U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) “public charge” rule that patient advocates and healthcare interests, among others, said would adversely affect the health of immigrants.
The long-standing U.S. public charge rule requires visa applicants and individuals applying to become permanent legal residents to demonstrate that they are not “inadmissible” – that is, that they are not primarily dependent on the government for subsistence. This August, DHS expanded that rule to mean that anyone receiving almost any form of assistance – including non-emergency Medicaid services – would be considered a public charge.
Fourteen states, including Massachusetts, brought suit against DHS in Washington state. Other attorneys general filed suit in other jurisdictions. They were joined by numerous healthcare interests and others who argued, among many other points, that expanding public charge to an immigrant seeking medical care would result in individuals avoiding needed care (such as vaccinations), while possibly becoming sicker and driving up healthcare costs for everyone. The rule was scheduled to take effect on October 15, but federal judges in California, New York, and Washington issued temporary injunctions.
MHA has opposed expanding the public charge definition since DHS first issued the proposed rule in 2018. In June 2019, MHA joined a letter the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute sponsored that asked the Massachusetts congressional delegation to support legislation that would prohibit the use federal funds to implement DHS’s rule.