‘Public Charge’ Rule Already Causing Harm

If the Trump Administration plan is approved, public hospitals like Lincoln Hospital, in The Bronx, could lose thousands of patients. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

The numbers are really alarming. More than 350,000 New Yorkers who are patients at the city’s public hospitals could be affected by the “public charge” rule proposed by the Trump Administration if it gets approved. This includes 62,000 people who might abandon Medicaid and other health insurance programs, which would leave them totally unprotected.

This, according to an announcement on Wednesday by health authorities, City Hall representatives, elected officials, pro-immigrant activists, labor leaders and immigration law experts at a press conference at the Lower East Side’s Gouverneur Hospital (…)

“This means the patients, their doctors, their nurses, social workers, psychologists and food providers will have to face a choice between getting the health care that they need, and to which they have the right, or risk not being able to stay (in the country) with their children, because they are part of a mixed family,” said Dr. Mitchell Katz, President and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals.

“‘My kids were born in the U.S. and can stay here, but I was not born here and if I receive the medical care that I need I will not be eligible to obtain a green card and stay with them;’ this is how many of them are thinking,” added Dr. Katz.  “How can we, as primary care providers, suggest that someone make a choice like that?” (…)

Dr. Katz, along with legal experts, once again came out in defense of immigrants living in the Big Apple, telling them not to be afraid and to keep seeking the public assistance they need, be it health care, food coupons or housing subsides, because the changes to the rule are only proposed and have not yet been approved

“We have already seen people who are legal immigrants, with all the correct documents, who are saying they don’t want Medicaid… or WIC. Those benefits are not at risk in the public charge legislation, but people don’t know because there’s a lot of confusion,” said Katz.

According to NYC Health + Hospitals, if the controversial rule is approved, more than one million visits to the doctor would be forfeited by immigrants fearful of using available public services. This could generate a loss of $362 million in the first year for the city’s public health system, which is already saddled with a $1.8 million deficit.

But beyond legal, immigration and financial consequences, one of the biggest worries for the city’s officials is a possible public health crisis if thousands of people fail to get essential treatment for their chronic diseases, pregnancy and post-natal care, or proper vaccination, which could cause citywide flu or tuberculosis epidemics. (…)

Officials also pointed out that the rule would only affect those who seek to regularize their immigration status by obtaining a green card or a non-immigrant visa, and not legal residents who are applying for the naturalization process.

(…) “They would not even affected by that rule, which the Federal government itself has admitted has created a lot of fear and confusion,” said Bitta Mostofi, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.

“This anti-immigrant agenda that we are seeing at the federal level is having a really negative effect. We are already seeing people who are deciding not to access those resources that are so necessary because those are working families that in a moment of crisis could really need a bit of support.”(…)

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