January 27, 2021

Rep. Castro and Over 90 Colleagues Urge Biden administration to Extend ACA Benefits to DACA Recipients

WASHINGTON — Congressman Joaquin Castro and 93 House Members sent a letter to President Biden and the Acting Secretary of Health and Human Services urging them to expand ACA benefits to DACA recipients. Specifically, the letter asks HHS to repeal it’s rule excluding DACA recipients from the definition of lawfully present, a definition that DACA recipients qualify for in many other federal programs, and to do so within the first 100 days of the administration.

“There are over 200,000 DACA recipients who are currently working as essential workers on the frontline of the pandemic, but who remain excluded from the most basic of health care protections under the Affordable Care Act”, said Congressman Joaquin Castro. “In the midst of a deadly pandemic, we need to do everything possible to extend health care for all. I am proud that this letter gathered such strong support in the House of Representatives, and I look forward to working with the Biden-Harris administration to build on the ACA and expand health care coverage.

List of co-signers: 

Representatives Raul Ruiz, M.D., Barbara Lee, James P. McGovern, Jan Schakowsky, Sean Casten, Danny K. Davis, Jimmy Gomez, Mark Pocan, Juan Vargas, Tony Cárdenas, Gwen Moore, Bobby L. Rush, Alan Lowenthal, Nydia M. Velázquez, Jamie Raskin, Sheila Jackson Lee, Marcy Kaptur, Adriano Espaillat, Grace Meng, Kathy Castor, Doris Matsui, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Ritchie Torres, Jahana Hayes, Darren Soto, Madeleine Dean, Grace F. Napolitano, Nanette Diaz Barragán, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici, Anna G. Eshoo, Al Green, Alexandria Ocasio -Cortez, Alcee L. Hastings, Earl Blumenauer, Adam Smith, Lucille Roybal -Allard, Yvette D. Clarke, Ted W. Lieu, Jerry McNerney, Mark Takano, Jim Cooper, Mondaire Jones, Betty McCollum, Ruben Gallego, Filemon Vela, Al Lawson, Julia Brownley, Emanuel Cleaver II, Steve Cohen, Peter Welch, Judy Chu, Gerald E. Connolly, Joe Neguse, Mark DeSaulnier, Lori Traha,n Nikema Williams, Veronica Escobar, David Trone, John B. Larson, Jake Auchincloss, Sylvia R. Garcia, Marie Newman, Henry C. "Hank" Johnson Jr., Zoe Lofgren, Brenda L. Lawrence, Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D., Albio Sires, Jason Crow, Jesús G. "Chuy" García, Linda T. Sánchez, Daniel T. Kildee, Jerrold Nadler, Ann Kirkpatrick, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Dina Titus, John P. Sarbanes, Thomas R. Suozzi, Ami Bera, M.D., Marc Veasey, Jackie Speier, Steven Horsford, Teresa Leger Fernández, Lizzie Fletcher, Diana DeGette, Paul D. Tonko, Derek Kilmer, Raul Grijalva, Peter Welch, and Brad Sherman.

You can view the letter here and below:

Dear President Biden and Acting Secretary Cochran: 

We write to respectfully request that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, grant access to benefits under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. Access to COVID-19 testing and treatment for DACA recipients and their U.S. citizen children is absolutely critical during this pandemic, particularly for the 202,500 DACA recipients employed as essential workers on the frontlines to keep our country healthy and running.

Specifically, we request that HHS repeal 45 C.F.R. § 152.2(8), which excludes DACA recipients from the definition of “lawfully present” and, consequently from benefits under the ACA, even though DACA recipients are treated as lawfully present for other federal programs. Fixing this incongruity within the first 100 days of the administration is critical as any additional delay in health care access during the COVID-19 pandemic puts the health of DACA recipients, their families, and the wider community at risk. HHS should then follow up by issuing a State Health Officials letter clarifying their eligibility for Medicaid and CHIP. It is crucial that you both keep your commitment to expanding coverage for undocumented immigrants, including DACA recipients, and rescinding this harmful regulation will help deliver on that promise.

As a result of the current regulation and guidance, DACA recipients cannot: 

a)     Obtain comprehensive health insurance under Medicaid or CHIP in their state; 

b)    Purchase health insurance in the ACA’s health insurance marketplace, even at full cost using their own funds; and

c)     Receive federal premium tax credits to make private health insurance affordable in the marketplace (even though DACA recipients still file and pay federal taxes).

Making ACA coverage and financial assistance available to all persons granted deferred action, including DACA recipients would advance the goals of the ACA and benefit the American people. Under DACA, immigrant youth with long-term residency in the United States who satisfy a strict set of criminal background and educational criteria are eligible for employment authorization and protection from deportation. Rescission of 45 C.F.R. § 152.2(8) would grant access to the ACA for the approximately 650,000 current DACA recipients and could ultimately benefit over a million individuals as the DACA program resumes. The regulation excludes a significant pool of young, healthy adults—the exacttype of participants that Congress sought to encourage to secure and purchase health insurance under the ACA. Moreover, the regulation potentially leads to worse health outcomes for DACA recipients and their families by foreclosing access to health care, including unsubsidized purchases on ACA health insurance marketplace. 

We strongly encourage HHS to honor our country’s promise of full integration and support of DACA recipients, including access to affordable health care through the ACA by rescinding this regulation. We anticipate your response within 30 days, and we thank you for your attention and prompt response. If you have any questions regarding this request, please contact Kaitlyn Montan at Kaitlyn.montan@mail.house.gov.