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Biden Admin Proposes Plan to Expand Health Coverage for DACA Recipients

The Biden administration has proposed a rule to expand access to the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid coverage for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipients. This change would treat DACA recipients, also known as “Dreamers,” more like those with temporary legal status. The White House says it intends to enact the change by the end of the month.

“Health care should be a right, not a privilege, and my administration’s worked hard to expand health care. And today, more Americans have health insurance than ever,” President Joe Biden said in a pre-recorded video announcing the decision. “Today’s announcement is about giving DACA recipients the same opportunity.”

According to the White House, the Department of Health and Human Services will propose an amended definition of “lawful presence” to include recipients of the DACA program. 

The proposed rule allows DACA recipients to apply for coverage in the health insurance marketplace and through their state Medicaid agency.

Advocacy groups applauded Biden for his decision. 

“It’s the right thing to do and reflects President Biden’s continued recognition of DACA recipients’ dignity and contributions to our nation,” Maribel Hernández Rivera, an American Civil Liberties Union deputy national political director, said

However, Biden did receive backlash from conservatives on the decision.

“Rewarding illegal immigration will bring more illegal immigration. This is an insult to American citizenship,” Republican Sen. Tom Cotton tweeted.

DACA, created in 2012 by the Obama administration, allows around 600,000 immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children to live and work in the country. The program does not provide a pathway to citizenship, but the Biden administration has called on Congress to change that.

DACA recipients are already eligible to apply for some health services, including Medicaid, which will pay for emergency medical treatment for people who meet their state’s Medicaid eligibility requirement but not citizenship and immigrant status requirements.

Multiple legal challenges have threatened the program DACA as a federal judge ruled the program unlawful and paused new applications. For now, existing recipients are still protected pending the lower court’s review of the Biden administration’s efforts to codify the program into administrative law. 

Current recipients can still apply to renew their status every two years through DACA, but new applicants have been barred for nearly two years.

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