Last month, the Biden administration began work to reverse a harmful public charge immigration rule that disproportionately harmed older adults and people with disabilities. Now, they have taken the final steps to reverse the rule which caused members of some communities to avoid health care and other needed services during the pandemic. The administration is “no longer applying” the 2019 version of the rule and is reverting to a 1999 iteration, and the Supreme Court dismissed cases that challenged the legality of the rule because it is no longer being used.
Over the past several years, the Trump administration attempted to curtail immigration through many means, including by denying immigration to those who may need public services like nutrition services, housing assistance, and even health care. The public charge rule change especially penalized older applicants, applicants with medical conditions or disabilities, and people with lower incomes, and forced families to choose between the services they needed and were entitled to and the ability to stay in the country.
The rule change was significant, and it was also coupled with widespread misunderstanding and fear about the scope of the change, causing many people, including naturalized citizens, to avoid the use of services they feared could be held against them in the future. This included avoidance of health care like COVID-19 tests, treatment, and vaccines; health coverage through Medicaid; and help with nutrition and housing.
We applaud the recent decision to abandon this discriminatory and harmful public charge rule. We must encourage the use of appropriate health care, especially during the pandemic. Even more importantly, we must stop all discrimination that impacts older adults, people with disabilities, and their families, and work to ensure everyone has access to the services and supports they need to thrive.