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Health Officials Assure Immigrants Their Medical Benefits Aren’t At Risk

Public comment ended Monday (12/10) on the Trump Administration’s proposal to change how the federal government oversees the use of public benefits by immigrants. The Oregon Health Authority says the application status of people using their services won’t be at risk.

An immigrant seeking a green card or a visa, is considered a public charge if the government determines they’re likely to use financial benefits like Social Security. Now, under a new proposal from the Department of Homeland Security other public benefits like Medicaid could be added to the list.

Patrick Allen the director of OHA said the proposal generated a lot of fear among immigrants, but he doensn't want them to be scared of using medical benefits. 

“Keep seeing the doctor, keep taking your kids to see the doctor," Allen said. "We have tools in place right now that aren’t affected by this proposal."

Allen said people who don’t regularly access healthcare end up costing the government more when they go to the emergency room. He said it's his priority to keep the state healthy, and that includes immigrants.

"[The proposal's] not final and it’s not going to be retroactive if it is final," he said. If the proposal does get finalized, the policy on public charges won’t go into effect for several months.

KLCC's Tiffany Eckert contributed to this report.

Melorie Begay is a multimedia journalist for KLCC News. She was the Inaugural KLCC Public Radio Foundation Journalism Fellow. She has a bachelors in Multimedia Journalism from the University of New Mexico. She previously interned at KUNM public radio in Albuquerque, NM and served as a fellow for the online news publication New Mexico In Depth.
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