Public charge rules and Apple Health (Medicaid)

Fri, 02/14/2020

Important! January 27, on appeal, the Supreme Court ruled against the US District court’s (New York) nationwide injunction on the new public charge rules.

As a result, the injunction will be lifted and the rule will go into effect on February 24, 2020.  

En Español: Reglas de carga pública y Apple Health (Medicaid)

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has published its final rule on public charge. The final rule will go into effect on February 24, 2020. Under this rule, use or probable use of certain public benefits may impact immigrants to adjust their immigration status, affect entry into the United States, or affect renewal or change of immigration status.

Medicaid (called Apple Health in Washington) is listed in the final rule as a program subjecting individuals to the public charge test. The Health Care Authority (HCA) wants to ensure individuals have accurate information regarding this change in policy. Programs and services administered by HCA will remain in place and are accessible to individuals who are eligible.

HCA will continue to protect the confidentiality of each applicant’s personal information and does not share this information unless required by law.

About public charge

Under the new rules, DHS defines a public charge as an immigrant who receives one or more public benefits during a set period of 12 consecutive months during any 36-month period.

A person may become a public charge at any time in the future based on past (after February 24, 2020) receipt of certain public benefits. Receiving two benefits in any one month will count as two months of benefit use. The rule will not apply retroactively to benefits received before the rule’s effective date of February 24, 2020.

While the receipt of public benefits is a heavily weighted negative factor in the determination of public charge, it is not the only determining factor. View the totality of circumstances below for more information.

When the public charge test applies

  • A person applies for admission to the U.S.
  • A person applies to adjust to Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status, also known as green card status
  • An LPR leaves the U.S.  for over 180 continuous days and seeks to reenter
  • A non-immigrant visa holder seeks to apply for a change of status (renew, extend or change a  visa status in the United States)

Certain immigrants who meet the criteria in the scenarios described above are exempt from public charge rules.

Exemptions from the public charge rule

The following individuals are exempt from public charge rules:

  • Refugees
  • Asylees
  • Amerasian immigrants
  • Afghan and Iraqi Special Immigrant visa holders
  • Cuban/Haitian Entrants
  • Humanitarian parolees
  • Victims of human trafficking (T-visa holders)
  • Victims of criminal activity (U-visa holders)
  • Special Immigrant Juveniles (SIJ)  
  • Violence against Women Act (VAWA) self-petitioners

A legal permanent resident (LPR) applying for citizenship is not subject to the public charge test.

Totality of circumstances

DHS will continue to use a “totality of circumstances” approach that takes into account a person’s age; health; family status; education and skills; assets; resources; and financial status. No single factor determines whether a person will more likely than not become a public charge.

Positive factors may be weighed against negative factors in public charge determinations.

Public benefits that may be considered in a public charge determination

  • Medicaid (exceptions are listed below)
  • Supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP)
  • Section 8 Housing Assistance and Project-Based Rental Assistance
  • Federally-subsidized housing
  • Cash assistance (SSI, TANF, and any federal, state, local, or tribal cash benefit programs)

Medicaid benefits excluded from an individual’s public charge test

  • Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
  • Medicaid benefits received by immigrants under age 21
  • Medicaid benefits received by pregnant women, including 60-day post-partum period
  • Emergency medical assistance (AEM)
  • Medicaid benefits provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
  • School-based Medicaid services
  • Benefits received by an immigrant’s family members

Non-Medicaid benefits excluded from an individual’s public charge test

  • Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
  • Child care development
  • Disaster relief
  • Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
  • Employment and job training
  • Federal student financial aid
  • Food banks
  • Head start
  • Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
  • Medicare Part D Low-Income Subsidy
  • National School Breakfast and Lunch Programs
  • Pell Grants

Receipt of any public benefits listed above does not exempt an individual from a public charge determination; it only exempts the particular program(s) from consideration in the totality of circumstances.

If you have questions or concerns

If you have questions or concerns about the potential impact of your use of public benefits, contact an immigration attorney. You may contact one of the following organizations for help:

More about public charge

Governor Jay Inslee’s immigration and refugee resources webpage

HCA Public Charge presentation

HCA Public Charge FAQ