We Should Protect Health Benefits for Legal Immigrants

By Barrett White

Today Legacy announced our opposition to the new proposal limiting legal immigrants’ access to health services. For decades, under “public charge” policies, legal immigrants have been able to utilize Medicaid and the Medicare prescription drug benefit since many work for employers who don’t offer health insurance. The proposed change uses these public health programs as a demerit against their chances of obtaining a green card.

“Houston is a city of immigrants who are here legally, have jobs, and pay taxes,” said Legacy CEO Katy Caldwell. “Under the new proposal, these hardworking immigrants would be forced to choose between health care and a green card, with most, if not all, choosing the latter. This inevitably will lead to an exodus of thousands from our health care system, leaving Harris County taxpayers to bear even more health care costs and health care providers with higher costs.”

The potential financial impact includes:

  • Taxpayers will likely feel the financial impact, either through higher insurance premiums or higher taxes.
  • The amount of uncompensated care will increase as legal immigrants dis-enroll from health insurance programs.
  • Emergency rooms will be flooded with additional uninsured patients.

The Administration admits its “proposed rule would potentially impose new costs on individuals or companies” and that about $19 billion over 10 years would be lost from dis-enrollment or foregone enrollment in public benefit programs.

“Perhaps most expensive in all of this is the level of fear instilled in the legal immigrant community,” added Caldwell. “The cost in real dollars of their fear-driven exit from our health care system is incalculable. The proposed rule must be scrapped.”

Legacy will be submitting an official statement in opposition to the rule once the 60-day public comment period begins.