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New Study Reveals How Proposed Public Charge Rules Could Lower Insured Rates For Texas Children

A third of all publicly-insured children in Texas have a non-citizen parent, some 1.1 million kids.

Elizabeth Trovall/Houston Public Media
Esmeralda Cedillo helps families sign up for Medicaid/CHIP and SNAP. She says she has already seen increased fear of enrolling among immigrants.

A new study shows how a proposed public charge rule could set back recent gains in insuring children of immigrants.

The proposed rule would make getting a visa harder for immigrants determined likely to use certain public benefits.


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The report by the Urban Institute reveals a 10 percent decrease in the uninsured rate among citizen children with non-citizen parents, from 2008 to 2016.

The new rule proposed by the Trump administration could reverse those gains by expanding who is deemed a public charge, or likely to be one, says researcher Genevieve Kenney, vice president for health policy at the Urban Institute.

“The concern is that parents of citizen children who are concerned about their own immigration status will fail to enroll their children or dis-enroll their children from public health insurance programs,” said Kenney.

She said welfare reform in the 90’s also caused a significant drop in social services enrollment among immigrants.

“Experience tells us that those kinds of policy changes have effects beyond that kind of narrow group that is targeted,” said Kenney.

Since Trump took office, providers have already seen a dip in participation for nutritional and food assistance programs in Houston.

And, according to some experts, an expansion of public charge would make it worse.

The City of Houston Health Department has voiced opposition against the proposed Trump administration rules that would discourage immigrants from accessing public benefits, including health care.

In a letter to the Department of Homeland Security, Houston Health Department leadership urged immigration officials not to implement proposed rules.

“If you put fear into people so that they won't even take care with the assets that we have available, the situation's just going to get much worse and there's going to be a human price to be paid, and there's going to be a worse financial price to be paid, too, so it's a lose-lose proposition,” said Houston Health Authority Dr. David Persse, who co-authored the letter.

More than 30 percent of all publicly-insured children in Texas have a non-citizen parent, some 1.1 million kids.

Along with the official letter, the City of Houston is also urging people to file comments on proposed rules with the federal government before the December 10 deadline. Comments can be made through the City of Houston here.

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