HHS Encourages States to Educate Eligible Immigrants about Medicaid Coverage

4 months ago
AMERICA NEWS NOW

Effort will help dispel fears that access will impact immigration status

Today, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued an informational bulletin to states’ Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) agencies reaffirming that the 2019 Public Charge Final Rule – “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds” – is no longer in effect and states should encourage their eligible immigrant populations to access public benefits related to health and housing. 

Consistent with the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) currently applicable 1999 guidance on public charge inadmissibility, accessing Medicaid benefits, for example, will usually have no bearing on anyone’s immigration status. Today’s informational bulletin to states emphasizes that the 2019 Rule is no longer in place and underscores DHS’s call to action enlisting federal partners to ensure eligible immigrants are informed of these changes and their right to access public benefits like Medicaid, if applicable.

DHS will no longer consider a person’s receipt of Medicaid (except Medicaid for long-term institutionalization) as a part of a public charge determination when deciding immigration status.

“As President Biden made clear in his executive order restoring faith in our legal immigration systems, we must reduce fear and confusion among immigrant communities who rely on critical benefits that are available to them by law,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “We invite states and our community partners to spread this message far and wide: we are here to help and the public charge rule is no longer in effect. All our communities deserve the peace of mind that comes with having access to quality care.” 

CMS is reaching out to states and encouraging them to work with local partners and community groups to provide this important information so that individuals needing health care coverage are not afraid to apply for coverage through Medicaid and CHIP. While the public charge rule was never applicable to CHIP, CMS recognizes that misinformation and fear of immigration retribution likely kept some eligible families from seeking this health coverage for their children. It is critical that eligible immigrants and their families have access to necessary health care services, including those covered by Medicaid and CHIP, to keep their families safe and healthy.

“Health care is a right, not a privilege, and no one should be deterred from accessing the care they need out of fear. Accessing health coverage through Medicaid or CHIP will not risk immigration status,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. “The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to making sure people have access to programs that keep them safe and healthy.”

The bulletin ensures that Medicaid and CHIP agencies have a clear understanding that the DHS regulation – “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds Final Rule” – has been vacated and DHS is now following the 1999 Field Guidance on Public Charge, which is the policy in place prior to the 2019 Final Rule. 

The 2019 Final Rule may have deterred immigrants from seeking for themselves and their families, including their children, critical government services that are legally available to them. The bulletin reminds states about their responsibilities to protect the rights of Medicaid applicants and their families.

States are prohibited from sharing a Medicaid applicant’s or beneficiary’s information for reasons outside of administering the state’s Medicaid plan, such as determining eligibility or providing services. States also have an obligation to keep applicant information safeguarded and protected, and they are generally prohibited from sharing applicant information with DHS.

To read a copy of the full Informational Bulletin, please visit: https://www.medicaid.gov/federal-policy-guidance/downloads/cib072221.pdf.