New Department of Health and Human Services Rule Would Make DACA Recipients Eligible to Enroll in and Receive Subsidies for Health Insurance Plans
TRENTON – Attorney General Matthew J. Plakin today led a multistate letter of support for a new rule aimed at expanding Medicaid and Affordable Care Act (ACA) eligibility to individuals receiving deferred action pursuant to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, which enables certain young people who arrived in the United States as children to avoid deportation and build lives in the country.
Established in 2012, DACA allows immigrants who came to the U.S. as children – commonly referred to as Dreamers – the opportunity to remain in the country if they meet certain criteria and renew their requests for deferred action every two years. Since its inception, DACA has protected from deportation and extended work authorization for approximately 825,000 individuals – including approximately 14,430 active DACA grantees in New Jersey.
The multi-state letter sent Friday to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, and led by Attorney General Platkin, supports the proposed Biden Administration rule designed to ensure DACA recipients can obtain affordable health insurance, regardless of whether their employer provides coverage.
“Healthcare is a human right, regardless of your immigration status,” said Attorney General Platkin. “For the first time in 11 years, hundreds of thousands of ‘Dreamers’ across the nation could have access to the public healthcare they need and deserve. As we’ve said many times before, DACA recipients are our co-workers, friends, fellow students, and neighbors, and I am proud to support the Biden Administration’s efforts to protect their health and well-being. We will always fight to ensure that New Jersey remains a beacon of equal opportunity for all who wish to be part of America’s story.”
On April 13, 2023, HHS published a proposed rule that would expand access to healthcare coverage for DACA recipients – first and foremost, by amending the outdated definition of “lawfully present” for purposes of Medicaid and ACA coverage to include DACA recipients.
While DACA recipients may have access to employer-sponsored health insurance, they are ineligible for ACA, Medicaid, CHIP, and Marketplace coverage even though other, similarly situated immigrant groups qualify for some coverage options. The new rule will correct this long-standing error and help Dreamers obtain a new lifeline of support.
Today’s letter signed by 19 Attorneys General asserts that a substantial portion, 34 percent, of DACA recipients are uninsured, while others face significant gaps in coverage, high medical bills, and fear of seeking public services.
The letter also explains that the DACA population is aging and having children, further exacerbating these healthcare access and coverage issues. As of 2021, DACA recipients had more than 250,000 U.S.-born children, who depend on their parents for insurance coverage.
The new rule will mitigate these issues by expanding Medicaid and ACA eligibility to include qualified DACA recipients and allowing them to purchase affordable insurance coverage to cover themselves and their dependent children.
Access to health insurance improves public health, and this proposed expansion of healthcare coverage will benefit not just DACA recipients themselves but also the communities in which they live.
New Jersey has been a consistent and active supporter of DACA, particularly during the Trump Administration’s repeated, but ultimately failed, attempts to discontinue the policy.
The Trump Administration sought to end DACA in 2017 but was enjoined by several courts from doing so. Subsequently, Texas and seven other states filed a federal lawsuit in the Southern District of Texas arguing that DACA is illegal because its creation occurred without congressional action.
In May 2018, New Jersey intervened in the case, arguing that the Trump Administration was not adequately defending DACA. At the urging of New Jersey and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Southern District of Texas declined to immediately end the policy but ultimately concluded that DACA was unlawful. The district judge stayed that injunction in significant part while the appeal in this case proceeded.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld the Southern District of Texas’ ruling but sent the case back for further review and kept DACA in place for current recipients.
To view a timeline of litigation in this case, please visit: https://www.maldef.org/2021/10/texas-v-united-states-a-timeline-of-the-fight-to-protect-daca/.
Attorney General Platkin was joined by the Attorneys General of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai’i, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
This matter was handled by Deputy Attorneys General Samuel Rubinstein, Shireen Farahani, and Joshua Bohn, under the supervision of Special Litigation Section Chief Jessica Palmer and Assistant Section Chief Andrew Yang, within the Division of Law’s Affirmative Civil Enforcement Practice Group.