‘Public charge’ rule change would strip access to care, pack emergency rooms – OPINION

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Larry McReynolds, executive director of the Family Health Centers at NYU Langone via NYU Langone

By Larry McReynolds, Executive Director of the Family Health Centers at NYU Langone in Brooklyn

A proposed rule to limit the path to permanent U.S. residency for so-called public charges is an insult to the hard-working immigrant communities of Brooklyn, puts the health of tens of thousands of New Yorkers in jeopardy, and would put unnecessary stress on healthcare systems across the country.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s proposal would expand the definition of a “public charge,” or person who accepts government assistance, usually in the form of monetary aid. Public charges can be denied green card applications and visa renewals or extensions, and prospective immigrants living abroad can have their visa applications denied if the government believes they may someday need government assistance. The proposed new definition of a public charge would include a person who receives Medicaid, Medicare Part D low-income subsidy, food stamps, Section 8 housing vouchers, and public housing. All of these programs preserve and protect what we consider basic rights for working families.

If this policy change is accepted, thousands of men, women, and children who use the Family Health Centers at NYU Langone for primary and specialty care would be deemed public charges. Many people seeking a path to permanent residency may then simply stop using the safety net services that support their families’ food and housing needs; they will withdraw or not enroll in Medicaid or prescription drug assistance; they will severely limit their access to quality healthcare; and they will revert to only seeing a doctor in the emergency room after their health has severely deteriorated.

All the progress we have made in New York State to reduce preventable hospital admissions and increase access to high-quality preventive care would be undone.

This is not a scenario anyone wants. Our nation and our community were built by immigrants, for immigrants. We should support those seeking liberty and freedom, not strip them of basic needs like food, housing, and good health.

New Yorkers, please express your opposition to this proposal now before time runs out on December 10. There are only three days left and there are only 150,000 comments. I encourage everyone to let your voice be heard on this issue while there is still time. Visit the Federal Registry, or this link (http://bit.ly/PublicChargeComment2018), to make a public comment now.

Bklyner welcomes opinions and letters to the editor from all our readers and will consider for publication on any topic that matters to Brooklyn and its residents. Please email editor@bklyner.com. Opinions are those of the author. 

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