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By Angel Rosario
At EmblemHealth, I lead a dedicated team that’s embedded in our neighborhoods to help families answer questions about health care coverage and services. For some, we are the first people that patients have spoken to about whether they qualify for coverage if they can get the preventative care they need, or how to deal with chronic conditions. We frequently encounter deep-rooted fears and a reluctance from immigrants and their families about how they can access health care.
Their fears are directly linked to the “public charge” rule, which is a new federal regulation that gives federal immigration officials the ability to deny applications for green cards and visas for those new to the country who have used certain government assistance programs. The rule, and confusion surrounding it, have led many to delay obtaining health care or avoiding it altogether; often resulting in people going to the hospital or worse, watching loved ones die. From a public health and community perspective, we all must ensure this doesn’t happen.
When we talk to people about health insurance, many emotions are exposed, including concerns about qualifying for health coverage. Every day, I watch people walk away from no-cost health insurance because this new rule makes them feel targeted and exposed.
During this uncertain time, where more than 5 million people have confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S, there’s an especially crucial need to ensure all who need it, have access to health care. Yet, uncertainty runs high for many in migrant communities, unsure if they can enroll in health insurance and if doing so will designate them as a “public charge”.
Recently, a federal appeals court blocked this proposed rule from being enforced in Connecticut, New York, and Vermont. Unfortunately, court action has not alleviated anxiety. Individuals are worried that applying for health care assistance will result in denial of a green card, visa renewal, or US citizenship, or even deportation.
Everyone has a vested interest in this debate; because more people with coverage helps protect our communities from disease. The facts are New Yorkers can be fully covered. The public charge rule only affected Medicaid, not other coverage, such as the Essential Plan, Child Health Plus, or Qualified Health Plan. Furthermore, even prior to the court action, the federal government exempted pregnant women and children under 21 seeking Medicaid coverage from the public charge rule. Now the court has made it possible for families to seek coverage for others not previously exempted under Medicaid.
This is a confusing time, and we are here to help. If you or someone you know is worried about getting access to health coverage, please call us at 888-432-8026 where you can get answers. Getting coverage helps you protect your family, ultimately making communities safer.
Angel Rosario is the Vice President of Marketplace Sales at EmblemHealth, a New York nonprofit health insurance plan that serves over 3.2 million New Yorkers and nearly half a million patients through AdvantageCare Physicians (ACPNY), where more than 70,000 of its patients are insured through Medicaid.