Providers walk "fine line" between informing and scaring immigrant patients

The “public charge” rule could force patients to choose between health care and their chance at a green card

Ana B. Ibarra
January 22, 2019 12:29AM (UTC)

This article originally appeared on Kaiser Health News.

While the Trump administration decides whether to adopt a controversial policy that could jeopardize the legal status of immigrants who use public programs such as Medicaid, doctors and clinics are torn between informing patients about the potential risks and unnecessarily scaring them into dropping their coverage or avoiding care.

“We are walking a fine line,” said Tara McCollum Plese, chief external affairs officer at the Arizona Alliance for Community Health Centers, which represents 176 clinics. “Until there is confirmation this indeed is going to be the policy, we don’t want to add to the angst and the concern.”


However, if immigrants do come to a clinic wondering whether using Medicaid can affect their legal status, trained staff members will answer their questions, she said.

Other providers prefer to prepare their patients proactively in case the proposal is adopted. At Asian Health Services, a clinic group that serves Alameda County, Calif., staff members pass out fact sheets about the proposed changes, provide updates via their patient newsletter and host workshops where patients can speak to legal experts in several Asian languages.

“We can’t just sit back and watch,” said CEO Sherry Hirota. “We allocate resources to this because that’s part of our job as a community health center — to be there not only when they’re covered, but to be there always,” even when that coverage is in jeopardy, she said.


Ana B. Ibarra

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All Salon Health Care Immigrants Kaiser Health News Medicaid "public Charge" Rule Science & Health

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