By GREGORY N. HEIRES
DC 37 is working with a coalition of health-care advocates to try to stop the Trump administration from implementing a new policy that would cut more than $360 million in federal assistance for treating immigrant patients at NYC Health+Hospitals.
President Donald Trump’s plan to slash federal assistance to immigrants deemed a fiscal burden to the state could affect as many as 350,000 immigrants who rely on NYC H+H for health-care coverage.
The new policy would consider any immigrant deemed to be dependent on government assistance as a “public charge,” and ineligible for benefits. Today, only legal immigrants who use long-term care or welfare cash are considered burdens to the state.
Expanding the meaning of “public charge” would jeopardize the government assistance of as many as 6.5 million American children nationwide, according to an Urban Institute study.
The study estimates as many as 6.8 million children of immigrant parents could lose their Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program coverage. The law’s chilling effect could lead their parents to stop using public assistance programs because they fear their participation would affect their immigrant status and path to citizenship.
The federal Dept. of Homeland Security is implementing the change. Critics say the denial of benefits reflects the nationalist ideology of Trump, who since the announcement of his presidential bid has tapped into an ugly anti-immigrant undercurrent in American culture.
The public comment period for the proposed new policy ends on Monday, Dec. 10. DC 37 Executive Henry Garrido and NYC Health+Hospitals President and CEO appealed to New Yorkers in a New York Daily News op-ed to express their opposition to the federal public charge proposal by visiting www.nyc.gov/PublicCharge.
“Sadly, as New York City’s biggest provider of care to Medicaid recipients and the uninsured, we’re under attack yet again,” wrote Garrido and Katz about the public health-care system, where thousands of union members work.
“A dangerous and shortsighted proposal from the Trump administration could discourage more than a quarter million New Yorkers who currently receive care at NYC Health+Hospitals from continuing that care. The same proposal, they wrote, “puts at risk millions of dollars in medical reimbursements” to the public health-care system they rely on.
Health-care and immigrant-rights advocates, including representatives from the Mayor’s Office on Immigrants, elected officials, community organizations and DC 37 and other unions, attended a gathering at Gouverneur Hospital on Dec. 6 in Manhattan to denounce the proposal and call upon New Yorkers to oppose it.
“There are basic human rights — food, housing, education and health care,” said Carlina Rivera, chair the City Council’s committee on hospitals. She described Trump’s proposed policy change as “part of a larger culture of bigotry and hatred,” before noting that immigrants contribute $2 billion a year to the city’s economy.
Dr. Frank Proscia, president of the Doctors Council, said the proposal “rips away the safety net that protects us all,” and “threatens immigrants and their children.”
Katz underscored the hospital system’s commitment to providing medical services to patients regardless of their immigration status.
“That such a misguided and dangerous proposal would even get this far is baffling and unfortunate, but we are here for the long run,” Katz said. “No matter what happens in Washington, our mission remains intact. NYC Health+Hospitals with its diverse and decided workforce will continue to provide care to all New Yorkers. Without exception.”
The DC 37 Blog is an official online publication of District Council 37, AFSCME, which represents 121,000 public employees who work in New York City and surrounding areas.