Some Arizonans may avoid coronavirus care because of Trump's 'public charge' rule

As more cases of new coronavirus are identified in Arizona, immigrant families in the state may be afraid to get medical help if they need it.

An updated federal rule called the "public charge" went into effect last month and has had what many experts say is a chilling effect on immigrant families, who are avoiding government-funded services, including health care, out of fear of the government.

"Now, it's particularly unfortunate when there is a contagious disease," said Siman Qaasim, president and CEO of the Phoenix-based Children's Action Alliance.

The public charge was already bad for health care access, and that's exacerbated by the new coronavirus pandemic, she said.

"It is documented that there is a chilling effect for families," she said, citing research by The Urban Institute, a Washington D.C.-based think tank. "This is why policies like public charge aren't in the interest of public health."

The Trump administration rule broadens the government's ability to penalize immigrants who seek green cards if they use taxpayer-funded programs such as housing assistance, food stamps and Medicaid, which is a government health insurance program for low-income people.

Both legal immigrants and undocumented immigrants who are hoping to adjust their status are affected, experts say. In some cases, they are avoiding important preventive health care.

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