January 28, 2020
Area(s) of Interest: Access to Care Public Health
The United States Supreme Court yesterday ruled that the Trump administration can move forward with changes to the “public charge” rule that will allow federal officials to deny green cards to legal immigrants who use public benefits or who are deemed likely to do so in the future.
In California, these benefits include Medi-Cal, the state’s version of Medicaid, which provides health insurance for low-income residents; housing assistance such as Section 8 vouchers; and CalFresh, commonly known as food stamps.
“The California Medical Association (CMA) remains steadfast in our opposition to the Trump Administration’s public charge rule because it targets immigrant families, jeopardizes public health and will deter millions of people from receiving critical health care services,” says CMA President Peter N. Bretan, M.D. “Of particular concern is the effect that the rule could have on children’s health. If parents are fearful that utilizing health care services could jeopardize their immigration status meaning, families might forgo critical and potentially lifesaving care. Additionally, the lack of needed vaccinations will contribute disease outbreaks in all segments of the population.”
CMA believes that many immigrants, even those not subject to the rule, will be deterred from accessing these benefits for themselves or their families due to fear and confusion. The new rule will also force noncitizens, especially those with children, to choose between receiving essential medical care or pursuit of their application for admission or adjustment. Families’ fear to participate in Medi-Cal could result in coverage losses throughout California, decreased access to care, and worse health outcomes for the entire family, including U.S. citizen children.
“This rule will have a dramatic impact in our state. More than 10 million immigrants call California home and half of all children in the state having an immigrant parent. We should be working together to find ways to make care more affordable and more accessible to all Californians,” said Dr. Bretan.
CMA believes this new rule hurts our most vulnerable residents and will be a major setback for public health in California and the nation as a whole. CMA previously submitted formal comments to the Department of Homeland Security on the proposed rule, raising concerns that the rule could cause confusion and panic among many immigrants, even those not subject to the rule, and lead millions of people to forego essential health care services.
The lawsuit challenging the rule was filed by California Attorney General (AG) Xavier Becerra in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Joining AG Becerra in filing the lawsuit were the AGs of Maine, Oregon, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia.
CMA will aggressively challenge any efforts to take health care away from California residents and will continue to work with state leaders to stand up to misguided public policies that will harm California families.