The Trump administration is considering a policy change that might discourage immigrants who are seeking permanent residency from using government-supported health care, a scenario that is alarming some doctors, hospitals and patient advocates.
Under the proposed plan, a lawful immigrant holding a visa could be passed over for getting permanent residency — a green card — if they use Medicaid, a subsidized Obamacare plan, food stamps, tax credits or a list of other non-cash government benefits, according to a draft of the plan published by The Washington Post. Even the use of such benefits by a child who is a US citizen could jeopardize a parent’s chances of attaining lawful residency, according to the document.
Health advocates say such a policy could frighten a far broader group of immigrants who will avoid government-supported health coverage, creating public health problems that could prove dire. About 3 million people received green cards from 2014 through 2016, government records show. Immigrants with visas or those who may have no legal status but plan to seek citizenship based on a close family relationship would be affected.
“We are very concerned that this rule, if finalized, would have a significant impact on health in this country,” said Erin O’Malley, senior director of policy for America’s Essential Hospitals, which discussed the plan with Trump administration officials in mid-April.
O’Malley said she fears that some visa holders and their families would steer clear of getting routine treatment and resort to going to emergency rooms for medical care. Such a change would “undermine the stability of our hospitals by creating uncompensated care costs and creating sicker patients,” O’Malley said.
The policy change could force a mother to weigh the need for hospital inpatient care for an ailing newborn against losing her legal immigration status, said Wendy Parmet, director of the Center for Health Policy and Law at Northeastern University.