November 8, 2022

Protecting access to medical care for legal immigrants

A statement of support from Kaiser Permanente chair and CEO Greg A. Adams on changes to the public charge rule.

By Greg A. Adams, Chair and Chief Executive Officer

On September 8, 2022, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security published a final rule on how it determines who is deemed likely to become a “public charge” — someone whose main source of support is from the U.S. government. The rule change restores the historical understanding of what constitutes a public charge. Kaiser Permanente supports this action.

Starting in 2018, Kaiser Permanente, along with numerous organizations, advocacy groups, businesses, and policymakers urged the federal government to keep the historical understanding of a public charge, which excluded the use of certain health, nutrition, and housing programs when determining an individual’s residency eligibility.

DHS expanded the definition of public charge in 2019, including the programs previously excluded. Kaiser Permanente opposed the rule changes, saying it threatened public health by directing immigration officials to deny lawful immigrants the ability to stay in the United States if they accessed nutrition, housing, or health programs for which they legally qualified. This change likely deterred many legal immigrants from seeking necessary care and support. 

DHS’ recent decision to restore the historical understanding of public charge will help protect public health and ensure immigrants can access the care they need to live full, healthy lives.