Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Images via Getty Images
New Biden plan expands healthcare for DACA recipients. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Images via Getty Images

Biden Administration unveils plan to expand Medicaid, ObamaCare access for Dreamers

The proposal unveiled on Thursday, April 13, would give healthcare access to nearly 580,000 DACA recipients and deportation protections.


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President Joe Biden unveiled a new plan on Thursday, April 13, that would expand healthcare coverage for the nearly 580,000 immigrant children that are a part of the President Barack Obama era program — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) — and are protected from deportation.

“They’re American in every way except on paper,” said Biden during his video announcement posted to Twitter. “It’s past time for Congress to give Dreamers a pathway to citizenship. We're not done fighting for their pathway to citizenship, but we're getting them the opportunities they deserve in the meantime.” 

The immigrants brought to the U.S. as children — known as Dreamers — could enroll in Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program and Affordable Care marketplaces under Biden’s proposal, potentially prompting another battle with conservatives who've hesitated on expanding Medicaid and have fought with the administration over immigration policy.

“President Biden believes that DACA recipients strengthen our economy and enrich our workplaces, our schools and communities, and our country as a whole,” the White House said in a statement on Thursday.

“That’s why on his first day in office, he called on Congress to give Dreamers a pathway to citizenship and he has repeated that call every State of the Union address since. While Congress has failed to act, the Biden-Harris Administration has taken significant measures to protect Dreamers,” continued the statement.

Dreamers — if they are poor — would be able to obtain Medicaid coverage in most states and qualify for subsidies in order to purchase private coverage in state marketplaces everywhere if they earn more. 

A country that’s been battered for its cost gripping healthcare costs — the uninsured rate is at a record low in the U.S., with undocumented immigrants accounting for a huge part of it. 

“Dreamers come from every corner of this planet, but the United States is their home. They are students, teachers, social workers, doctors, nurses, and more importantly, they are Americans,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement. 

“But, of the nearly 580,000 Dreamers who arrived in this country as children and currently have DACA protections, an estimated 34% do not have health insurance coverage. Today’s rule would change that,” he continued.

The program's future hangs in the balance due to many attempts to cut the program from the Trump administration and other GOP officials since its inception in 2012 and whose fate could be determined by the Supreme Court if lawmakers continue to have friction. 

Dreamers are not eligible for healthcare benefits because their immigration status doesn’t meet the current definition of “lawful presence” required to enroll in Medicaid and the ObamaCare exchanges — a definition that the Department of Health and Human Services would change by the end of the first month, according to the proposal. 

The end of the month is also the timeline in which the Biden Administration hopes to fully implement its new measures — implementations that even through executive action is a months-long process. 

California is among several other U.S. states, including New York and Minnesota, who’ve been covering DACA recipients through Medicaid, but their struggles include the inability to receive federal matching dollars for the coverage, forcing the state to pull from its own money. 

The administration’s proposal has been met with praise by several U.S. Democrats including Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto and U.S. Representative Joaquin Castro, who for years have called for healthcare expansion for Dreamers and are glad to see the president answer their calls. 

“DACA recipients are an essential part of our community in Nevada and they deserve access to quality, affordable health care,” said Cortez Masto in a statement. 

“I’m pleased to see the Biden administration is responding to our calls to take this important step and make sure the 12,000 DACA recipients in the state of Nevada, who already pay taxes, can get the healthcare they need.”

Castro expressed similar sentiments in his own statement — who in 2021, led over 90 House members in a letter calling on Biden and then acting HHS Secretary Norris Cochran to expand access to ACA benefits for DACA recipients in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For more than 10 years, hundreds of thousands of young Americans have been unfairly excluded from the affordable health insurance they need. Today’s announcement will give DACA recipients access to the same care as their neighbors and build healthier communities for all of us,” Castro said. 

“In the wake of a pandemic that disproportionately affected immigrant and frontline families, this long-overdue expansion is welcome news,” he added. 


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