GNYHA convened a conference call briefing for members last week on a proposed Federal rule issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on “public charge,” a determination that makes certain legal immigrants ineligible to change their status. GNYHA, member hospitals and health systems, and immigrant communities believe the proposed rule, issued in the Federal Register on October 10, will have a chilling effect on immigrants seeking medical care and enrolling in programs for which they are eligible.

The briefing was conducted by LegalHealth, a division of the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG), which partners with 36 hospitals and health care centers across New York City and Long Island to provide advice and representation to patients on immigration, public benefits, housing, insurance, and other issues. Members had the opportunity to ask questions on the rule’s impact, and to obtain advice on messaging to stem the proposed rule’s chilling effect on patients seeking health care and benefits for which they are eligible.

Under longstanding law, the Federal government is entitled to take into consideration whether an immigrant has received certain public benefits when evaluating the immigrant’s application to change status (e.g., obtain a green card or visa extension). The types of benefits that the government currently considers are generally cash-based. The proposed rule would add Medicaid and Medicare Part D low-income subsidies, among other benefits, to the list of programs that would be considered in making a public charge determination.

Material from the conference call is available here. Comments on the proposed rule are due to DHS by December 10, 2018. GNYHA will solicit patient impact stories from members to document in its comment letter the proposed rule’s chilling effect.