Ruling Expands Health Care Coverage to DACA Recipients


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Federal regulators recently published a final rule to expand healthcare for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and certain other noncitizens.

The rule – which modifies the definition of “lawfully present” – essentially opens enrollment in the healthcare marketplace to those in the DACA program, many of whom are Latinos.

The ruling will take effect on Nov. 1, 2024.

Salud America! members were among 530 people who submitted a public comment last year to support this expansion of healthcare access to DACA recipients.

“This overdue step is a critical victory for equitable access to health care,” according to the National Immigration Law Center.

Let’s dive further into what this ruling means and how it will impact Latinos.

What is DACA?

DACA is a federal program through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to protect immigrants who arrived in the U.S. when they were children.

The program, created under the Obama Administration and retained amid Trump Administration attempts to repeal it, allows unauthorized immigrants who arrived in the United States as children to work, go to school, and get a driver’s license without fear of deportation.

The Biden Administration has pushed to protect DACA as part of its larger immigration plan.

“Thanks to [DACA], more than 800,000 Dreamers have been able to live, study, and work in the only home they have ever known while making our nation a better place,” said Vice President Kamala Harris.

Who Are DACA Recipients?

DACA program participants are also known as Dreamers.

There are over 44 million immigrants in the U.S. as of 2020. Most immigrants are Latino, coming from Mexico, El Salvador, Cuba, Dominican Republic, and other places around the globe. Many are undocumented. Many are undocumented.

Immigrants from Mexico make up most of all DACA recipients.

Unfortunately, DACA recipients are currently three times more likely to be uninsured than the general U.S. population, according to CMS.

What Is the New Ruling on DACA?

CMS made some technical modifications to the definition of “lawfully present” used to determine eligibility for these programs to create administrative efficiencies, streamline verification processes, and promote clarity and transparency.

The rule’s technical changes to the definition of “lawfully present” will “benefit consumers by enabling CMS and states to administer their programs more efficiently for eligible noncitizens and to ensure complete, accurate, and consistent eligibility determinations and verification processes for health coverage for these populations,” according to CMS.

“Today’s rule reduces barriers for DACA recipients to obtain health care coverage and is a vital step toward making certain that it is available and accessible to all Americans,” said Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, CMS Administrator.

What Does the New Ruling Mean for DACA Recipients?

The new ruling makes it possible for DACA recipients who meet all other eligibility requirements to enroll in a Qualified Health Plan (QHP) through the Health Insurance Marketplace and a Basic Health Program (BHP).

CMS estimates the rule could lead to 100,000 previously uninsured DACA recipients newly enrolling in health coverage through a Marketplace plan or a BHP.

According to the CMS:

  • Consumers who apply for coverage through a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) during November 2024 can have their Marketplace coverage begin as early as Dec. 1, 2024, if they meet all other eligibility requirements.
  • Consumers who apply for coverage through a SEP during December 2024 can have their Marketplace coverage begin as early as Jan. 1, 2025, if they meet all other eligibility requirements.
  • Consumers who apply for coverage in January 2025 through the individual market Open Enrollment Period can have their coverage begin Feb. 1, 2025, or March 1, 2025, depending on when they apply and their state’s rules. For DACA recipients who are eligible for a BHP, coverage could begin as early as Nov. 1, 2024.

“DACA recipients will be eligible for ACA enrollment November 1, with coverage beginning as soon as this December,” according to the National Immigration Law Center.

“This change in eligibility will require an investment in outreach and enrollment assistance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and other entities to maximize the number of people who gain coverage.”

See the final rule here.

Checking the Health of Your Community

Healthcare coverage contributes greatly to one’s overall health.

While it’s important to manage and take care of our own health, what about the health of the community?

Through Salud America’s Heath Equity Report Card, people can explore Latino-focused local data with interactive maps and comparative gauges on a variety of health topics including transportation, food, social economic status, and healthcare.

Browse the report card and see how your county stacks up in these health equity issues. Compare the results with other counties and states across the nation.

Use the results to start important conversations on health equity, share them with local leaders and health organizations, and advocate for change in your community!


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