Eligibility for ACA health insurance extended to DACA recipients: What it means

The Biden Administration has expanded eligibility for health care coverage to immigrants enrolled in the program known as DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. KERA Immigration Reporter Stella Chavez speaks with Justin Martin, the local host of All Things Considered, about what this decision means.

What did the Biden Administration do and who does this affect?

Late last week, the US Department of Health and Human Services finalized a regulation that allows those with DACA status to sign up for health care through the Affordable Care Act, so either the Health Insurance Marketplace or the Basic Health Program.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimates that around 100,000 DACA recipients who don’t have insurance could enroll.

Who qualifies for DACA or who’s considered a DACA recipient?

The program was created under the Obama administration in 2012. It offers undocumented immigrants temporary protection from deportation and gives them work authorization for two years.

DACA recipients are immigrants who came to the US as undocumented children. They may have come with a parent or family member or family friend.

To qualify for enrollment, they had to be under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, and they must have lived continuously in the US since June 15, 2007.

They must be enrolled in school or have graduated or received a GED certificate. Also, they can’t have a felony conviction. There are a few other requirements which are explained on the USCIS’ DACA page.

What’s been the reaction to this news?

DACA recipients and their supporters are happy about this decision. I spoke with Antonio Arellano, Vice President of Communications at Next Gen America, which bills itself as the country’s largest youth voting organization. He talked about what this means for those who are eligible to sign up for health benefits.

“This is going to be life changing for people,” Arellano said. “The undocumented community often has to make the difficult decision of seeking health care or paying the rent, or making ends meet because of how inaccessible and unaffordable health care coverage is in America.”

Arellano said access to health care is not only important for a person’s physical well-being, it’s also a driver of economic opportunity and social mobility.

“If you’re too sick to go to school or too sick to go to work, you are automatically going to fall behind,” he said.

Is there anything that this new rule doesn’t cover?

Yes. It doesn’t allow DACA recipients to enroll in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. That was initially part of the plan, but Republicans pushed back. It remains to be seen if that will ultimately happen,

I understand there are still some unresolved issues for DACA recipients.

Yes, while Arellano and others say they’re happy about this latest ruling, DACA was never meant to be a permanent fix for those who are enrolled in the program. They’d like to see a more permanent resolution.

“We want to recognize that while the ACA announcement is a cause for celebration, it is crucial to recognize that it’s just one piece of the puzzle,” Arellano said. “President Biden and Vice President Harris must continue to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers.”

Copyright 2024 KERA