Public Charge and Health Insurance Explained

Public Charge and Health Insurance Explained

“Public charge” is a ground of inadmissibility, that is, reasons a person could be denied a green card, visa, or admission into the United States. In deciding whether to grant an applicant a green card or visa, an immigration officer must decide whether the person is likely to become dependent on certain government benefits in the future, deeming them a “public charge.”

Under the new rule, the term “public charge” refers to someone who uses more than twelve (12) months in aggregate of public benefits (i.e. Medicaid, SSI, CHIP) over a three-year period of time.

This rule also affects those seeking to extend or adjust their status while in the United States. For most immigrants, simply having public benefits like Medicaid will not harm immigration status because many immigrants are excluded from the public charge rule.

Under the new rule, public benefits on this list now include:

  • Cash assistance such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and general assistance programs;
  • Medicaid (with exceptions including coverage for emergency services, children under 21 years old, and pregnant women including 60 days of postpartum services);
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP, formerly called “food stamps”); and
  • Federal Public Housing, Section 8 housing vouchers and Section 8 project-based rental assistance.

Additionally, in regard to the new rule, receiving public benefits will not automatically make someone a public charge. The use of public benefits is only one factor considered in determining whether an immigrant is likely to be a “public charge”. Most immigrants in Florida who are subject to the public charge rule are not eligible for the programs listed in the rule.

Covid-19 and Public Charge: All noncitizen should get the care they need. US Citizenship and Immigration Services has announced that getting testing and treatment for COVID-19 (including a vaccine) will not trigger public charge. USCIS also stated it would take into account other factors in a person’s life due to the pandemic, like job loss and need for further benefits, or other situations that may impact a public charge decision.

Questions? If you’d like assistance to determine if you will be affected by this new rule, give us a call. We offer health insurance options within two categories: domestic health insurance and international health insurance.

In certain states, immigrants can purchase a non-ACA (Affordable Care Act) plan. These short-term plans can vary in length from one month to three years and can be purchased during Open Enrollment or a Special Election Period. Domestic Health Insurance cover all pre-existing conditions, and most carriers don’t require a SSN or Tax ID Number. Clients can apply for a subsidy to offset the costs of this plan, but it may not be considered in the Public Charge determination.

International health insurance is available in all 50 states and don’t require a social security number. They can be purchased before the applicants are in the United States and don’t have waiting periods. However –  these plans are subject to an applicants medical history.

Here at E&M, we’ll work with you and your clients to find an appropriate insurance plan for their needs.With an insurance plan squared away before the Public Charge questionnaire is issued, you can significantly strengthen your client’s case for a U.S. Visa.

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