Mountain Family Health Centers column: Changes to public charge rule — what does this mean for residents?
Mountain Family Health Centers
Mountain Family Health Centers cares deeply about the health of all families and communities, and we are committed to advocating for everyone’s right to access quality health care services. Public charge is a term used to describe the use of public benefits like Medicaid (Health First Colorado), housing and food assistance by people who are immigrating to the United States. Recently the rules regarding these benefits have changed.
What’s New, What Stays The Same
The changes that passed may make accessing health care and other benefits harder for our immigrant communities. It is important for people to know about the rule and exactly how it may affect them.
The new rule reviews the use of programs including Medicaid (with exceptions), Section 8 housing vouchers, public housing and food stamps as well as federal cash assistance for income maintenance.
The rule does not apply to programs such as school-based nutrition services, public education (including Head Start), Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+), Affordable Care Act (ACA) tax credits, or sliding fee scales such as those offered at Mountain Family Health Centers.
What This Means for You
There is a lot of misinformation and fear in the community regarding this issue, and Mountain Family wants to ensure we are sharing accurate information regarding these changes. Here is what we want you to know:
1. The rule has changed, but it is not immediate. The new rule will take effect Oct. 15. People applying for services or for legal permanent residence status before Oct. 15 will not be subject to this new rule.
2. The rule change does not change the eligibility of you or your family for public programs, including health services. You are eligible to continue receiving your health care at Mountain Family.
3. Parents of children who are legal citizens and eligible for benefits will not be penalized for enrolling their children in programs.
4. If you need health care services now, and you or your child is eligible, you should still go to the doctor and enroll in health insurance like Medicaid (Health First Colorado).
5. Using these programs before Oct. 15 will not count against you. There is no need to stop using these programs now.
6. In most cases, if you already have a green card, your use of government programs does not affect your application for citizenship nor renewal.
7. Mountain Family has prepared — or is using — the following resources to provide you with more information:
a) Factsheet of what we know about the rule change
b) Protecting Immigrant Families: http://www.protectingimmigrantfamilies.org/
c) National Immigration Law Center: http://www.nilc.org
There are a lot of unknowns on how this rule change will affect the community, but Mountain Family is here as a resource for you. Our mission has not changed, and we will provide high quality, affordable primary medical, behavioral and dental health care to everyone in our communities.
Danyelle Rigli is advocacy coordinator for Mountain Family Health Centers. If you have more questions on this topic, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-945-2840, ext. 7257.
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