A proposal from the Trump Administration may result in millions of children being denied access to health benefits. The proposal would result in more immigrants being declared ‘public charges.’ This certification would prevent them from being eligible for health benefits from the government.
Opponents of the policy say many parents will disenroll their children from Medicaid and other government health insurance programs due to confusion and fear. The effect of this would be seen even in families where the new policy would not apply.
A little more than eight million children who are enrolled either in the Children’s Health Insurance Program or Medicaid also risk losing health nutrition benefits if the proposal is passed. This represents 25 percent of the children who are part of these programs. It is estimated that 5.5 million of these children suffer from issues like asthma, diabetes, cancer, and ADHD.
The authors of a study on the matter say that 90 percent of the children who could be negatively affected by the proposal are citizens of the United States.
A ‘public charge’ is an individual that is dependent on government benefits for survival. Presently, most immigrants requesting permanent residency receive few benefits and are not considered ‘public charges.’ However, the proposal by the Trump Administration would cause benefits like food and housing assistance and health insurance.
Dr. Leah Zallman works at Harvard Medical School and is a lead author of the study. Zallman says ‘public charges’ have been identified as people receiving cash assistance or housed in an institution for the past 100 years. Zallman says the new plan would expand the definition to include individuals who only need the assistance of some type for a short period of time.
All children born in the United States are citizens and can receive public benefits if needed. The citizenship of their parents does not change this fact. The proposed policy changes are still being considered but the fear and confusion already seem to be causing the number of immigrant families applying for public benefits to shrink.
Zallman says the children who lose these public benefits are highly likely to skip health maintenance in subsequent years.
Steven Wallace directs the University of California Los Angeles’ Center for Health Policy Research. Wallace points out the new policy would not change eligibility requirements for food, health, or housing assistance. Instead, the policy would attach potential negative consequences to immigrants that apply for the programs.