Federal judge blocks Trump administration’s health insurance rule for immigrants

A federal judge in Portland, Ore., has blocked a rule issued by the Trump administration that requires immigrants to prove they have health insurance or can otherwise pay for health care before they can obtain a visa.

U.S. District Judge Michael Simon granted a temporary restraining order that prevents the rule from taking effect on Sunday.

It wasn’t clear when Simon was prepared to rule on the merits of the case.

Seven U.S. citizens and one nonprofit group sued the federal government on Wednesday to stop the rule from taking effect, which would block about two-thirds of all prospective legal immigrants.

The suit claimed the rule would greatly diminish or even eliminate the number of immigrants who come into the U.S. with family-sponsored visas.

“We’re very grateful that the court recognized the need to block the health care ban immediately,” Justice Action Center senior litigator Esther Sung, who argued at Saturday’s hearing on behalf of the plaintiffs, said. “The ban would separate families and cut two-thirds of green-card-based immigration starting tonight, were the ban not stopped.”

The rule was signed by President Donald Trump in early October. It applies to people seeking immigrant visas from abroad — not those in the U.S. already.

Also, the rule does not affect lawful permanent residents. It does not apply to asylum-seekers, refugees or children, however.

Currently, health care provided to immigrants without insurance is largely picked up by private health organizations and taxpayers.

At the time the rule was issued, the White House said in a statement that too many non-citizens were taking advantage of the country’s “generous public health programs,” and said immigrants contribute to the problem of “uncompensated health care costs.”

According to the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan immigration think tank, 57 percent of U.S. immigrants had private health insurance in 2017, compared with 69 percent of U.S.-born, while 30 percent had public health insurance coverage, compared with 36 percent of native-born.

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