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Updates: The Federal Public Charge Rule

July 2, 2020

MassHealth is sharing this message as a reminder about the federal public charge rule, exceptions to public charge including for COVID-19 related services, and how to get more information or verification of a person's MassHealth coverage. 

As of February 24, 2020, the federal government considers applications for and/or receipt of public benefits, such as certain types of MassHealth coverage, in determining whether a person is likely to become a public charge for federal immigration purposes.

The public charge rules are complicated and may impact an individual's immigration status. If you work with individuals that have questions about whether public charge applies to them or their family, we recommend the individual speak to an immigration expert.

The recent changes allow more types of public benefits to be considered when making public charge determinations. Benefits considered will now include:

  • Certain MassHealth benefits; 
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); and
  • Rental assistance under Section 8 housing vouchers, and public housing. 

There are health benefits that are not taken into account in a public charge determination, including: emergency Medicaid (MassHealth Limited), MassHealth coverage for pregnant women or children under age 21, and coverage through the Massachusetts Health Connector (including Advance Premium Tax Credits (APTCs) and ConnectorCare), Health Safety Net, and unsubsidized health insurance.

In addition, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has issued guidance that it will not consider testing, treatment, or preventive care related to COVID-19 as part of a public charge inadmissibility determination, even if Medicaid or another public benefits program pays for it.

Many immigrants are not subject to public charge determinations. The revised public charge rule says that the following immigrant statuses are not subject to the public charge rule: 

  • Green card holders who do not leave the country for more than 6 months (180 days) 
  • Refugees
  • Asylees
  • Survivors of trafficking, domestic violence or other serious crimes (T or U visa applicants/holders)
  • Special immigrant juveniles
  • Certain people paroled into the U.S.
  • Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) self-petitioners
  • Active duty service-members

The new rule does not change whether or not a person is eligible for MassHealth or insurance through the Massachusetts Health Connector.

If you are applying for financial help through mahealthconnector.org, even if you only intend to apply for Connector benefits, eligibility for MassHealth will be checked at the same time.

Questions?

For more information about the public charge rule as it relates to health care, and for a list of immigration services in the community, visit Health Care For All. Information is also available in Spanish and Portuguese on https://www.hcfama.org/immigrant-health. You can also contact Health Care For All's Help Line at: 800-272-4232.

For questions about MassHealth coverage, or for verification of MassHealth coverage, contact MassHealth Customer Service at: 800-841-2900 (TTY: 800-497-4648).

For questions about Health Connector coverage, contact Health Connector Customer Service at: 877-623-6765 (TTY: 877- 623-7773).

Your assistance is appreciated as you continue to help consumers apply, enroll and maintain their health insurance coverage.