Biden administration will expand health care coverage for immigrants under DACA


(WASHINGTON) — The Biden administration has finalized plans to expand government-subsidized health insurance for people brought to the country illegally as children but shielded from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Immigrants with DACA status receive protections from deportation but had been formerly barred from receiving health care coverage made available by the Affordable Care Act.

But now, an estimated 100,000 previously uninsured DACA holders can enroll in coverage, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, fulfilling a pledge the White House made last year.

“Dreamers are our neighbors and friends; They are students, teachers, social workers, doctors, and nurses. More importantly, they are fellow Americans,” Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement on Thursday, referring to the frequent nickname for DACA holders.

“More than one third of DACA recipients currently do not have health insurance, so making them eligible to enroll in coverage will improve their health and wellbeing, and help the overall economy,” Becerra said.

DACA holders are currently three times more likely to be uninsured and those who are uninsured are generally less likely to seek out preventative care, Becerra said.

The new policy will take effect in November. Household income and the option to obtain health coverage from an employer will be factors in coverage eligibility, an administration official said.

“This final rule also reflects the president’s belief that health care is a right not a privilege for all Americans, that it should extend to DACA recipients just like the rest of us,” White House Domestic Policy Advisor Neera Tanden told reporters. “This landmark final rule will make DACA recipients eligible for the Affordable Care Act coverage for the first time.”

The Obama-era DACA program, which dates back to 2012, is controversial among conservatives and has long been tied up in legal battles. The Biden administration is seeking to protect it from further legal scrutiny by codifying it into regulatory policy — an ongoing process.

The Biden administration has also faced criticism from some advocates and Democrats for abandoning a potential pathway to citizenship for DACA holders as part of bipartisan Senate negotiations on immigration earlier this year.

Democrats continue to blame Republicans for rejecting that deal despite the long-time objections of many in the GOP to a citizenship pathway for migrants already living in the country after entering illegally.

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