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For more information about the proposed rule visit Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota.

Portico’s complete statement:

I am writing on behalf of Portico Healthnet, a Minnesota-based nonprofit health access organization dedicated to reducing the number of people without coverage for health care services. Since our founding in 1995, we’ve helped over 50,000 low-income, uninsured children, families, and adults overcome barriers to quality health care coverage and services. Today, we continue our history of innovative solutions and lead the way in culturally competent outreach, enrollment, health literacy, and health system navigation services.

Portico Healthnet opposes the proposed rule on public charge “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds.” The proposed rule would penalize low-income immigrant families who are eligible for and depend on public health programs. It is also causing fear and concern among immigrant families who would NOT be affected by the rule change. Our organization has dozens of clients who are asking us to help them drop public health benefits they and their family members are receiving, or are refusing to sign up for benefits they are eligible for, only because they fear the proposed rule would affect a current or future immigration application. In many cases, immigrant families feel compelled to drop benefits offered to their US citizen children due to fear and confusion about this proposed rule change.

Here are a few examples:

A Medicaid-eligible client who is a legal permanent resident worked with us to apply for health insurance, but was hesitant about it due to the public charge issue. Our staff explained to client and family members that the client would not be affected and they submitted the health insurance application. A few days later, the family called back and asked to withdraw the application, choosing to buy a private insurance plan with no financial assistance instead.

A client called Portico and asked staff to close her child’s case for Medicaid. The client was worried that her child’s Medicaid case would affect her own immigration application. However, her child is a US citizen and the Medicaid benefits the child would not affect her mother’s immigration application under the proposed rule change. Our staff member suggested that she talk to an immigration lawyer first before making a decision on her child’s Medicaid case, and referred the client to low-cost legal resources.

A client with DACA status and eligibility for MinnesotaCare (Minnesota’s Basic Health Plan) came to her appointment and decided not to apply for health insurance through MinnesotaCare because she was concerned about the public charge rule change. The Portico staff member working with her investigated and discovered that both the immigrant status she has and the program she is eligible for are excluded from public charge tests, both now and under the proposed rule change. The staff member communicated this her, but she decided not to apply due to her concerns.

It is clear that this proposed rule change poses a threat not only to immigrants and their families, but to the public at large by discouraging use of public health resources. In our experience, which is supported by research, we know that people who do not have health care coverage tend to delay seeking care, do not use primary and preventative care, and do not obtain or take the medicines that they need to stay healthy. Apart from the negative impact on their health, failure to access care due to lack of coverage also increases one’s chances of going to the emergency room and developing chronic health conditions that require expensive treatment, which in turn increases the total cost of health care for everyone. In sum, this proposed rule would negatively impact the health and wellbeing of all people in the United States, immigrants and their families, adults and children, citizen and noncitizens.

Meghan Kimmel, President
Portico Healthnet