Health Coverage and New DHS Rules

New DHS Rules Add Urgency to the Need to Maintain Health Insurance for Dependents

Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly signed a memo on February 21, 2017 implementing the president’s Executive Order No. 13768 “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.” The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) states in this memo that it will render someone removable for abuse of a public benefit, such as someone who has “knowingly defrauded the government or a public benefit system.” Those who have done so will be priority enforcement targets for removal. In other words, non-citizens who have been found guilty of defrauding public benefits will be targeted for deportation under the new rules.

However, which public benefits exactly would fall under this rule and make someone removable is still unclear. Someone who uses health insurance benefits that he or she wasn’t technically, legally entitled to could potentially become a priority for deportation according to this memo. When an uninsured person ends up needing treatment for a medical emergency, well-meaning medical staff may end up applying emergency medical benefits to help pay for the patient’s treatment. There is the question of whether this could end up being considered “defrauding a public benefit system” under the new rules if such benefits are used for a non-citizen.

Implementation of this new rule adds a renewed sense of urgency to the goal of making sure that all international students and scholars and their dependents are covered by health insurance at all times while in the United States. All International Students are automatically enrolled in the Habif Health and Wellness Center’s Student Health Insurance Plan. Dependents of F-1 and J-1 International Students are not automatically covered. Due to the new regulations mentioned above, as well as the high cost of healthcare in the United States, we strongly encourage health coverage for all dependents. Please note that it is a legal requirement for J-2 dependents to have health insurance. Students can opt to add their dependents to the Student Health Insurance Plan at the beginning of the school year or within 30 days of arriving in the U.S. Or they can buy coverage for them elsewhere. If you have questions about health insurance in the US and how to go about choosing a plan, the Habif Health and Wellness Center has a very helpful Health Insurance Guide for International Students on its website.

For questions on visa regulations and health insurance requirements, consult an International Student Advisor during walk-in hours (Monday-Thursday, 1:30-3:30) or contact us directly at or 314-935-5910.



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