More than 360 labor, civil rights, and health groups ask President Obama to revoke policy denying DACA recipients access to Affordable Care Act programs, Medicaid and CHIP
WASHINGTON — Following a Supreme Court deadlock on immigration initiatives designed to provide deportation relief to millions, groups ranging from the American Academy of Pediatrics to the NAACP on Monday urged President Obama to restore access to affordable health insurance programs to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. DACA is an immigration initiative announced in 2012 that allows certain immigrants who arrived in the United States as children to apply for deportation relief and work authorization.
The National Immigration Law Center, along with more than 360 organizations from across the country, sent the president a letter demanding that he revoke unnecessary and harmful regulations enacted by his administration in 2012. The regulations affirmatively deny DACA recipients access to affordable health insurance under Affordable Care Act programs, and also to Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in states that have enacted expanded coverage options for children or pregnant women.
“Living in a healthy community means ensuring that all people, regardless of where they were born, can access quality, affordable health care. Immigrant youth with DACA are currently unjustly excluded from being able to purchase health insurance through Affordable Care Act programs, even though they can live and work here,” said NILC Executive Director Marielena Hincapié. “Not only is this unfair and unnecessary, it runs contrary to the Affordable Care Act’s objective of expanding access to health insurance as broadly as possible. President Obama has the power and a moral obligation to change this damaging policy.”
The Obama administration announced regulatory changes on August 28, 2012, that exclude DACA recipients from federal health insurance programs. The policies do not affect any other immigration category and do not affect people granted deferred action apart from the DACA program.
If not for the 2012 regulatory changes, some DACA recipients would have gained access to more options for affordable and comprehensive health insurance. DACA recipients who are under 21 years old or pregnant, and otherwise eligible, would have been able to apply for free or low-cost health insurance through a state’s Medicaid program or CHIP in about half of the states.
“We’ve spent many years working to expand affordable health coverage to all children and families in this country, and we’ve come a long way, but a glaring coverage gap still exists among immigrant youth who live, study, and work here legally,” said Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus. “Not only is providing health coverage to DACAmented youth the right thing to do, it contributes to a better and healthier America. Every young person in this country should have access to health care.”
“It’s only fair and common sense to remove political interference so immigrant women and their families can participate in the health care programs their tax dollars support,” said Jessica González-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH). “We strongly recommend that the administration continue to build on the successes of the Affordable Care Act by removing the ban restricting DACA-eligible youth from accessing the comprehensive, quality, and affordable health care they need. NLIRH will continue to work to advance a more compassionate and inclusive immigration system, including access to a healthy future for all families regardless of who they are or where they come from,” González-Rojas said.
Kathy Ko Chin, president and CEO of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, said, “We call on the Obama administration to allow young DREAMers who are DACAmented to realize the benefits of this administration’s other signature achievement—the Affordable Care Act—and grant them access to the same health care options as other lawfully present people.”
In the letter, the groups told President Obama that “[i]t required both dedication and political courage to create the DACA program, as it did to pursue health reform when it had eluded so many of your predecessors. In order for each of these programs to succeed, they must be brought into alignment.”
“We urge you to extend the promise of meaningful and affordable health care to all deferred action recipients, without distinction,” the letter goes on. “Doing so would provide DACA-mented youth with a real opportunity to stay healthy and to succeed in our communities.”
Some states, such as California, continue to provide all young residents, regardless of their immigration status, access to affordable health care through state-funded Medicaid and CHIP.
The full letter is available at www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/ACA-DACA-letter-to-POTUS-2016-07-11.pdf