The Trump administration issued a proclamation declaring that immigrants applying for U.S. visas must prove they will purchase health insurance within 30 days after they arrive, or that they can afford to pay for medical services out of pocket.
The new rule will take effect on November 3.
It will not be applied retroactively to those already in the U.S. It does not affect lawful permanent residents, nor does it apply to asylum seekers, refugees or children. However, it would apply to the spouses and parents of U.S. citizens.
Singling out spouses and parents who come over after an immigrant receives U.S. citizenship for not having health insurance might be problematic. Any hint that the policy would affect some U.S. citizens and not others may be grounds for legal action.
“Hospitals and other providers often administer care to the uninsured without any hope of receiving reimbursement from them,” the White House explained. “The costs associated with this care are passed on to the American people in the form of higher taxes, higher premiums, and higher fees for medical services… The United States has a long history of welcoming immigrants who come lawfully in search of brighter futures. We must continue that tradition while also addressing the challenges facing our healthcare system, including protecting both it and the American taxpayer from the burdens of uncompensated care.”
Hospitals have spent more than $35 billion, or an average of $7 million per hospital, on “unreimbursed services” over the last 10 years, according to the White House.
This policy goes hand in hand with a “public charge” rule the administration issued earlier this year:
Earlier this year the Trump administration issued a “public charge rule,” which will go into effect Oct. 15, allowing federal officials to deny green cards to applicants deemed likely to rely on government aid. Officials described the rule as a means to protect taxpayers and promote self-sufficiency among those granted permanent residence. Factors to be considered under the “public charge rule” are age, health, financial assets and education.
The White House also directed officials to recover income-based welfare payments from sponsors and proposed a rule requiring verification of immigration status for anyone seeking access to public housing benefits.
Jazz Shaw explains the strategy behind Trump’s policy:
It’s not hard to see what’s going on here. President Trump is trolling his political adversaries as hard as he possibly can to keep the heat on for the upcoming election season. And based on recent history, they’re probably going to take the bait hook, line and sinker. The inevitable lawsuits will most likely be filed before the virtual ink on this column has dried.
More sauce for the goose. The Democratic presidential candidates will no doubt oblige Trump and call him every name in the books for his deliberate cruelty. If they were smart, they’d leave it alone. But they can’t. Their rabid base will be screaming for murder, forcing them all to join in.
I think this is an awful policy, if only because it’s so arbitrary. Shaw agrees:
If someone qualifies for a visa in all other regards and is attempting to go through the naturalization process legally rather than just jumping our borders, they deserve at least some credit for following the rules. And while holding a green card or a visa doesn’t make you a citizen with 100% of the same rights and obligations, we tend to treat them pretty much the same as they work through the process.
If anything, this policy will force some potential immigrants to try and enter the country illegally. But if it’s a political gambit, it doesn’t really accomplish anything policy-wise. And the amount of money it would save is a joke. $35 billion over 10 years? We spend on average $3 trillion a year on health care, so $35 billion over the same period represents a minuscule amount of the total.
But it will be entertaining to watch Democrats’ heads explode over this one.