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Statement from Linda Rosenberg, President & CEO of the National Council on Public Charge: A Health Crisis for Immigrant Families

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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Joy Burwell
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Statement from Linda Rosenberg, President & CEO of the National Council on Public Charge: A Health Crisis for Immigrant Families

WASHINGTON, D.C. (September 24, 2018) –  The National Council for Behavioral Health strongly opposes the Department of Homeland Security’s changes to the public charge policy announced on September 22 that would deny legal immigrants equal access to Medicaid and other critical safety-net programs. National Council members are the bedrock of culturally appropriate behavioral health care in their communities, providing critical mental health and addiction services to low-income individuals, regardless of immigration status. Broadening the public charge criteria to include health programs would unnecessarily force immigrant families to choose between meeting basic needs and keeping their families together in this country.

Under this rule, receiving health care through Medicaid would weigh heavily against legal immigrants applying for permanent status in the U.S. The rule would also penalize immigrant children if they enroll in Medicaid and/or public nutrition programs. The impact of this is huge, as one in four children in the U.S. – approximately 20 million – live in an immigrant family.

This policy will deter immigrant families from seeking health care coverage, negatively impacting the health of millions of adults and children. Months of speculation about the rule has already created a “chilling effect,” with immigrants disenrolling themselves and their children from health programs. This number is sure to grow under the proposed rule. Without access to care via Medicaid, health care costs will not decrease. Instead, they will turn into uncompensated care, with costs shifting to providers and state governments.

Additionally, this rule will have permanent consequences for our nation’s health. More families will be exposed to toxic stress, which has been shown to negatively impact individuals’ long-term physical and mental health. This will be especially hard on children, who are particularly vulnerable to toxic stress. Further, the rule will widen existing health disparities, as the immigrant populations that will be most affected by the rule are largely communities of color.

No family should have to choose between their health or their ability to stay together. The National Council urges the Trump administration to withdraw this rule.

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About the National Council for Behavioral Health

The National Council for Behavioral Health is the unifying voice of America’s health care organizations that deliver mental health and addictions treatment and services. Together with our 2,900 member organizations serving over 10 million adults, children and families living with mental illnesses and addictions, the National Council is committed to all Americans having access to comprehensive, high-quality care that affords every opportunity for recovery. The National Council introduced Mental Health First Aid USA and more than 1 million Americans have been trained. For more information, please visit www.TheNationalCouncil.org. 

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