The public charge final rule will go into effect in late December 2022 and seeks to reduce the impacts that public benefits usage can have on the immigration process.

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released its public charge final rule which clarifies how HHS and states will supply benefits for noncitizens—namely, that the use of most public services and benefits will not impact immigration or public charge status.

“This final rule reinforces a core principle of the Biden-Harris Administration: that healthcare is a right, not a privilege, and no one should be deterred from accessing the care they need out of fear,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure.

“Today’s final rule is an important step toward achieving this goal for many Medicaid and CHIP enrollees and their families, and CMS will continue to do everything in our authority to make sure people have access to programs that keep them safe and healthy.”

Under the final rule, noncitizens who have applied for admission to the US or lawful permanent residency will not be penalized for most public payer benefits. Immigrants and those who have applied for admission can receive most Medicaid benefits except for public payer-funded long-term institutionalization.

Apart from health-related benefits, the rule also clarifies that immigrants and applicants can access other public benefits without fear of penalization. Those benefits include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and disaster assistance received under the Stafford Act or pandemic assistance.

Some public benefits—specifically cash-based benefits—will be considered on a “totality of circumstances” basis. This means that using benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) will not eject applicants from the application process.

HHS officials underscored that this move sought to advance health equity by reducing stereotypes, discrimination, and unnecessary barriers to healthcare access.


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