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Medicare Rights Opposes Punitive “Public Charge” Proposal for Harm to Families and People with Medicare

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The Department of Homeland Security recently released a proposed “public charge” rule that could greatly harm families and prevent people with Medicare from accessing the services and supports they need.

The proposal would dramatically expand the government’s “public charge” test, which considers whether immigrants are likely to use public benefits when deciding whether or not to grant entry to the United States or permanent resident status. Currently, the scope of what the government considers to be a “public charge” is so narrow that it is rarely used as grounds to reject an immigration application. Under the expanded definition, however, the government would consider a much wider array of services when making a public charge determination—including whether an individual or someone in their family is or is likely to need help affording prescription drugs under Medicare, food and housing assistance, or Medicaid services.

The proposed changes would make it much more difficult for immigrants—especially older adults and people with disabilities—to pursue citizenship, reunite with their families, and access the supports they need to thrive. Already, there are reports of immigrant families abandoning needed assistance out of fear that accessing these services could jeopardize their immigration status. If this rule were to become final, even more immigrants would likely forego vital care, food, and shelter, leading to poorer health outcomes and exacerbating economic and social disparities.

The Medicare Rights Center opposes this harmful proposal. Policies must be changed to make health care and other essential services more accessible, affordable, and available to those in need—not less so. No one should be forced to choose between their and their family’s health and well-being and the stability of their immigration status and family unification. We urge the Administration to immediately withdraw this unconscionable proposal.

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