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Patient advocates decry Trump administration move to restrict immigrants' access to health care

Noam N. Levey, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- Health officials, physician groups, hospitals and patient advocates across the country are strongly condemning the Trump administration's proposal to restrict immigrants' access to green cards if they use the health care safety net, warning of risks to public health and government finances.

"This is not only bad for the health and well-being of the people most directly affected, it is bad for all of us," said Dr. Georges Benjamin, head of the American Public Health Association, one of scores of health care groups to criticize the administration's proposal.

"We hope that this heartless, punitive public policy will be reversed," Benjamin said.

Among the major groups calling on the Trump administration to withdraw the so-called public charge proposal are the American Medical Association, the March of Dimes and the American Hospital Association.

"Many of the patients served by our members almost certainly will avoid needed care from their trusted providers, jeopardizing their own health and that of their communities," six leading physician groups said in a joint statement.

The groups include the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Physicians and the American Psychiatric Association.

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The Trump administration recently announced a proposed regulation that would allow federal immigration authorities to deny green cards to immigrants who receive certain forms of government assistance.

These include housing vouchers, food aid often known as food stamps, and Medicaid, the half-century-old government health insurance program for the poor.

"Those seeking to immigrate to the United States must show they can support themselves financially," Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement announcing the proposed rule, adding it would "promote immigrant self-sufficiency and protect finite resources by ensuring that they are not likely to become burdens on American taxpayers."

The proposed regulation was formally posted Wednesday.

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