COVID-19 Treatment and the Public Charge Rule

March 16, 2020 – As you know, the recent implementation of the rule expanding the "public charge" determination for legal immigrants to include benefits such as the Medicaid program has already caused many immigrants to forego health benefits and subsequently necessary care. Now that the COVID-19 pandemic has put an even greater strain on individuals and the health care sector, the fear that some legal immigrants and their families may not seek care at this time because of their worry of being determined a public charge is of great concern to the Catholic health ministry.

On March 13 U.S. Citizenship, Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a statement clarifying that USCIS will not consider treatment or preventative care for legal immigrants related to COVID-19 as part of a public charge inadmissibility determination. In the statement USCIS states:

To address the possibility that some aliens impacted by COVID-19 may be hesitant to seek necessary medical treatment or preventative services, USCIS will neither consider testing, treatment, nor preventative care (including vaccines, if a vaccine becomes available) related to COVID-19 as part of a public charge inadmissibility determination, nor as related to the public benefit condition applicable to certain nonimmigrants seeking an extension of stay or change of status, even if such treatment is provided or paid for by one or more public benefits, as defined in the rule (e.g. federally funded Medicaid).

Please note that as the public charge rule is related to legal immigrants seeking status changes and/or visas, this is not relevant to undocumented immigrants. See the full USCIS statement, and please do not hesitate to contact CHA if you have any questions about this policy.