Most Clinics Battle to Settle Fears over Sign-Ups and Green Cards

Many clinics struggle to overcome the fear and misunderstanding of legal immigrants caused by the new Trump administration’s policy.

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The Trump administration revealed a controversial scheme last September, a policy that, if employed, could endanger the legal status of innumerable legal immigrants who register for health care programs funded by the government, including Medicaid.

The Trump policy is still on its way through the public views and evaluation process. Although a few state attorneys general say they would oppose such policy, it may come into effect as early as this year.

Meanwhile, some doctors and clinics are struggling. They constantly want to keep their patients posted about the potential risks associated with the implementation of the policy. However, they do not want to create a state of panic in patients. They also do not want them to drop health care benefits or avoid medical care by any means.

Tara McCollum Plese, the chief external affairs officer at the Arizona Alliance for Community Health Centers, reckons we are walking a fine line. She said, “Until there is confirmation, this indeed is going to be the policy, we do not want to add to the angst and the concern.”

However, if immigrants visit a clinic asking if using Medicaid might affect their legal status, staff members are trained to help them with their queries, she added.

Many primary care physicians prefer to take more proactive steps to help their patients get prepared if the Trump policy is implemented.

A clinic group at Asian Health Services serves Alameda County, California, passes out fact sheets about the changes that are to be proposed, provides updates through newsletters aimed at patients, and hosts workshops where one can speak to legal advisors in several Asian languages.

The Trump’s proposed policy is awaiting the final action by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It would allow the federal government to consider immigrants’ use of public benefit programs, including Medicaid, food stamps, and green card status.

McCollum said, if the proposed policy comes into effect, it could force people to choose between health care and green card, because of which most people would not take the services.

According to providers, some immigrant patients have already started skipping medical appointment due to the fear infused by the proposed policy.

Erin Park, CEO of KHEIR Center, said, for now, they are focusing on correcting misunderstanding and not on raising awareness among people who have not heard about the changes in the policy. She further added that this proposal thrives on fear and misunderstanding, so they are paying attention to how and when to actively engage patients about the issue, given the fact that nothing has passed into law yet.

The Department of Homeland Security has been reviewing over 200,000 public comments before it issues a final judgment. And there is still a possibility that the department will not adopt the rule at all, according to legal experts.

At KHEIR Center, many patients are immigrants from Korea and they are aware of the proposed policy because of its coverage received in Korean-language media, according to the center’s director of external affairs, Kirby Van Amburgh. Others, such as Bengali and Latino immigrants, had a few questions about the changes in the proposal.

Trained staff members address the questions of patients one by one and hand out a fact sheet when and as required.

L.A. Care health plan that covers over 2 million Medicaid patients has hosted a webinar last month on the proposed rule for 180 providers. They urged providers to inform concerned patients that nothing has been changed yet and that most people would not be affected by the policy.

Even if the government adopts the policy, it would not be into effect right away. Legal experts opine that there would be a 60-day grace period prior to the changes taking place.

The CEO of L.A. Care, John Baackes, has been quite critical of the Trump proposal. He says his organization offered the webinar due to the estimated 170,000 legal immigrants could potentially be at risk. He further said that we should let people know what is about to come and give them relevant information so that they can act prudently.