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Internists Oppose Public Charge Rule, Urge DHS to Prioritize Patients, Public Health

Statement attributable to:
Robert McLean, MD, FACP
President, American College of Physicians

Washington, DC (August 13, 2019) — The American College of Physicians (ACP) strongly opposes the final public charge regulation issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), as it will jeopardize the health of children, their families, and create barriers to care.

ACP is deeply concerned that the final regulation will undo decades of established policy and could cause patients who are legal immigrants to opt out of health care services for themselves and their children— avoiding critical preventive services and leaving urgent medical conditions untreated. As a physician, I fear that patients will forgo necessary care rather than face the threat of deportation or family separation, putting their own health and the health of their communities at risk. In a comment letter to DHS last year, ACP voiced concerns that the new regulation could be used to deny entry for those seeking to immigrate to the U.S. or result in deportation for individuals seeking basic health care services for themselves and their families.

In a 2011 position paper, National Immigration Policy and Access to Health Care, ACP called for a national immigration policy on health care that balances the needs of the country to control its borders, but also provides access to health care equitably and appropriately and protects the public’s health. ACP believes that national immigration policy should differentiate treatment of persons who fully comply with the law in establishing legal residency from that of persons who break the law in the determination of access to subsidized health coverage and treatment. At the same time, national immigration policies should ensure that all residents of the U.S., without regard to their legal residency status, have access to medical care, especially for primary and preventive care and vaccinations against communicable diseases. Last year, ACP signed onto a coalition letter with several other physician and health care groups calling on DHS to recognize that the proposed public charge rule would be detrimental to public health and the financial stability of families. Today, ACP, along with several frontline clinician organizations, objected to the final rule and emphasized its negative impact on public health.

ACP asserts that immigration policy should not interfere with the patient-physician relationship, and that health policy should not foster discrimination against any patient, regardless of immigration status. We urge DHS to rescind the final public charge rule and make the health of all U.S. residents a priority, not just a select few.


About the American College of Physicians

The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization in the United States with members in more than 145 countries worldwide. ACP membership includes 159,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Contact: Julie Hirschhorn, (202) 261-4523, jhirschhorn@acponline.org