President Joe Biden on Thursday announced that his administration plans to expand health care coverage to young adults without legal status who have been in the U.S. since they were children and are working or studying under the DACA program.
Under Biden’s plan, DACA recipients, also known as Dreamers, would be able to enroll in a health plan through the Affordable Care Act or Medicaid.
“Today’s announcement is about giving DACA recipients the same opportunities,” Biden said in a video statement posted on Twitter. “We’ll continue doing what we can to protect Dreamers.”
DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, was implemented in 2012 as an executive order under President Barack Obama and allowed eligible undocumented young adults who came to the U.S. to work and study without fear of deportation.
The Department of Health and Human Services is expected to propose a rule expanding the definition of “lawful presence” to include DACA recipients, for purposes of Medicaid and Affordable Care Act coverage, according to the White House.
The Biden administration expects to get this done by the end of April.
If finalized, it would be the first time DACA recipients are eligible for these health care programs.
DACA recipients would be able to apply for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace, where they may qualify for financial assistance based on income, and through their state Medicaid agency, according to the White House.
More than 600,000 DACA recipients live in the U.S. An overwhelming majority were born in Mexico and other Latin American countries.
United We Dream, the nation’s largest immigrant youth-led organization, celebrated the announcement as a “major victory.”
“Having good reliable health care is a human need, and this rule change will mean that more people will have the life saving health care coverage they need to take care of themselves and their families,” Juliana Macedo do Nascimento, deputy director of federal advocacy at United We Dream, said in a statement.
A 2021 survey from the National Immigration Law Center found that 34% of surveyed DACA recipients were living without any kind of health insurance, compared to 10% of the general population.
“We all contribute to the health care programs so it was unconscionable that DACA recipients were barred from eligibility for ACA, Medicaid and other government subsidized health care,” Macedo do Nascimento said.
Groups like United We Dream and lawmakers such as Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., have called on the Biden Administration to implement this rule.
“I’m pleased to see the Biden administration is responding to our calls to take this important step,” Cortez Masto, the first and only Latina senator, said in a statement. “DACA recipients are an essential part of our community.”
Sally Bronston contributed.