As America grapples with a persistent health care crisis, immigrant youth face deteriorating health and increasing impoverishment due to a lack of basic health care services. Currently, over 800,000 young immigrants who arrived in the United States as children and who consider this nation home hold Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status. This status allows them to contribute to society, work, and pursue education without living in constant fear of deportation and family separation.
However, they are systematically denied eligibility for public health insurance programs, including Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act Marketplace plans and subsidies. The implications are severe—a community at risk of health disparities, left to grapple with the constant threats to their temporary protections.
There is hope. The Biden administration has revealed a proposed rule to extend Medicaid and ACA eligibility to recipients of DACA. This initiative marks a monumental step toward securing health care access for thousands of young immigrants. It aims to bridge the current coverage gap, reduce the burden of towering medical bills, and serve as a crucial lifeline of support.
Add your name: Tell President Joe Biden and HHS to expand health care coverage for DACA recipients.
Despite their dreams and aspirations, DACA recipients find their access to essential health care services shockingly restricted. This deprivation, ironically, unfolds in the backdrop of advanced medical innovation, perpetuated by a health care system oriented toward profit and archaic immigration policies.
This harsh reality of restricted health care access isn't merely an inadvertent byproduct of a complex bureaucracy. It's a glaring design to place young immigrants in a disadvantaged position. The human consequences are both real and severe, threatening the health of thousands of young immigrants.
But this is not just an abstract problem; it has real-world results. The constant threats to their temporary protections carry daily mental and physical health consequences. Studies have shown a correlation between worry over deportation and poorer mental health outcomes, also affecting the children of DACA recipients, potentially leading to generational negative health outcomes.
Not to mention that it hinders recipients in other ways. Colleges often require students to have health insurance going into enrollment. Without government access, those premiums can get very expensive.
Gretel Rodriguez, a 22-year-old DACA recipient, explained to NBC News: “’Let's say I'm in the gym, and an injury happens, that's when it's accessible,’ Rodríguez, who was born in Honduras, said about her health insurance, adding it doesn't cover her eye exams, the eye glasses she wears or medical check ups for her asthma. She has to pay for those services out of pocket.”
President Joe Biden's proposal to expand health coverage for DACA recipients encompasses several key aspects. First, the Department of Health and Human Services will propose an amendment to the definition of “lawful presence” as it relates to Medicaid and ACA coverage, thus including DACA recipients. This amendment would mark the first time DACA recipients are eligible for these programs. They could apply for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace and potentially qualify for financial assistance based on their income. They could also apply through their state Medicaid agency.
The expansion of this coverage aims to provide DACA recipients with the same health care rights that are currently enjoyed by the majority of the U.S. population. This change is part of Biden's commitment to strengthening the ACA and Medicaid. “They’re American in every way except for on paper,” Biden said in a video released on his Twitter page. “We need to give Dreamers the opportunities and support they deserve.”
By expanding these programs to include DACA recipients, the Biden administration continues to affirm their belief that health care is a right, not a privilege. In doing so, they demonstrate their commitment to both protecting and enhancing the rights and lives of DACA recipients, all while continuing to advocate for a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers.
Now is the time for action. The proposed rule is currently open for public comment until June 23, and we have the power to make a difference. Help extend care to all, regardless of immigration status, by signing on today. Together we can ensure that DACA recipients have the health care access they need to thrive.
Sign now: DACA recipients deserve the same health care access as everyone else.