Biden Will Expand Health Care Access for DACA Immigrants

WASHINGTON — President Biden proposed on Thursday an expansion of health care coverage to nearly 600,000 young immigrants who are covered by a program that protects them from deportation.

The plan would allow those covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, to sign up for health insurance through Medicaid or the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, the White House said in a statement.

“They’re American in every way except on paper,” Mr. Biden said in a video posted to Twitter. “It’s past time for Congress to give Dreamers a pathway to citizenship.” He added that in the meantime, “we need to give Dreamers the opportunities and support they deserve.”

Implementing new regulations can often be a monthslong process, but the White House statement said it expects “to get this done by the end of the month.”

The change means that these immigrants — known as Dreamers — will be able to obtain Medicaid coverage in most states if they are poor, and that they can qualify for subsidies to buy private coverage in state marketplaces everywhere if they earn more. The nation’s uninsured rate is at a record low, and undocumented immigrants represent a major share of the country’s population that continues to lack coverage.

Former President Barack Obama created DACA through executive action in 2012 after years of inaction in Congress to provide protection to immigrants who were brought to the country as children. But those immigrants were not able to access the federal health insurance programs.

The Department of Health and Human Services will now propose a rule that would expand the definition of who has “lawful presence” for the purposes of being eligible for Medicaid and Affordable Care Act insurance.

In proposing the new rule, Mr. Biden appeared to be pressuring Congress to take action to create a path to citizenship for the young immigrants as the fate of the DACA program is in question. Unless Congress steps in with a legislative remedy, the legality of the DACA program is almost certain to be decided by the Supreme Court.

A federal appeals court panel ruled last year that DACA was illegal but allowed those already enrolled to renew their status, keeping the status of the program unchanged but the future of Dreamers up in the air.

A Texas judge is now considering a policy proposed by the Biden administration that would maintain protection for the hundreds of thousands of young immigrants.

“Health care should be a right, not a privilege,” Mr. Biden said.

Margot Sanger-Katz contributed reporting.

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