Democrats call for DACA recipients to receive ObamaCare benefits amid pandemic

Greg Nash

Over 50 House Democrats led by Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro are calling on the administration to expand benefits in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Under current provisions, DACA recipients do not fall under the Department of Health and Human Services’s (HHS) definition of “legally present” in the country. The lawmakers are calling on HHS to repeal that regulation, which currently bars DACA recipients from obtaining health care coverage under the ACA or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) if they are minors.

“Repealing this harmful regulation would ensure access to health care for the approximately 650,000 current DACA recipients and could ultimately benefit a total of 1.3 million individuals if DACA resumes in the future,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter addressed to HHS Secretary Alex Azar.

DACA recipients without employer insurance have few options to obtain coverage, the lawmakers noted, leaving them “without the ability to receive testing and treatment for COVID-19, driving up health care costs on to our own safety net providers and increasing premiums for everyone.”

“Leaving these young people uninsured, especially during a world-wide pandemic, simply does not advance the goals of the ACA nor benefit the American people,” the lawmakers added. 

There are currently 650,000 DACA recipients in the U.S. The Department of Homeland Security stopped accepting new applications for the program in March 2018.  

Senate Democrats and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) have called on the administration to extend DACA permits during the pandemic as concerns over people’s ability to complete renewal applications during the pandemic rise. 

The Trump administration has sought to end DACA, which is the subject of litigation in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Tags Children's Health Insurance Program DACA deferred action for childhood arrivals Health insurance HHS Joaquin Castro Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

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