Dreamers on the Path to Health Coverage: HHS Proposes Rule Change for DACA Recipients

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has recently proposed a rule change that would redefine “lawfully present” to include undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. This change would allow these individuals, also known as “Dreamers,” to access health insurance through Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges.

Proposed Rule Change Details:
The proposed rule, scheduled for publication in the Federal Register on April 26, 2023, would amend the definition of “lawfully present” to include DACA recipients. This change would make Dreamers eligible for government health programs, aligning them with other groups granted deferred action. The public comment period on this rule is open until June 23, 2023, and HHS aims to finalize and implement the rule by November 1, 2023, in time for the ACA exchanges’ open enrollment.

Background on DACA and Health Coverage:
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, established during the Obama administration, has protected Dreamers from deportation and allowed them to work. However, these individuals have not been eligible for Medicaid or ACA insurance exchanges due to a 2012 amendment by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which excluded DACA beneficiaries from the definition of “lawfully present.” The proposed rule seeks to rectify this discrepancy.

Implications of the Proposed Rule Change:
If the rule change is finalized, DACA recipients will become eligible for financial assistance through the ACA health insurance marketplaces and the Basic Health Program, which serves low-income individuals unable to purchase a plan through the marketplaces. However, they would still need to meet other eligibility requirements to obtain coverage. The proposed rule would also replace the term “alien” with “noncitizen” in the definition of “lawfully present.”

Significance of Health Coverage for Dreamers:
According to a 2021 survey, 34% of DACA recipients did not have health insurance, while 47% reported a delay in medical treatment due to their immigration status. Additionally, 67% said they or a family member faced medical bills they were unable to pay. By including DACA recipients in the definition of “lawfully present,” the proposed rule aims to align with the goals of the ACA, reducing the number of uninsured people in the United States and making affordable health insurance available to more individuals.

The proposed rule change by the Department of Health and Human Services could significantly impact the lives of DACA recipients, providing them with access to affordable health insurance through Medicaid and ACA exchanges. As HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra stated, “DACA recipients, like all Dreamers, are Americans, plain and simple. The United States is their home, and they should enjoy the same access to health care as their fellow Americans.”

If you or your family members have any questions about how immigration and nationality laws in the United States may affect you, or if you want to access additional information about immigration and nationality laws in the United States or Canada, please don’t hesitate to contact the immigration and nationality lawyers at NPZ Law Group. You can reach us by emailing info@visaserve.com or by calling us at 201-670-0006 extension 104. We also invite you to visit our website at www.visaserve.com for more information.