Reps. Castro, Lee, Jayapal and Senators Booker, Durbin and Hirono Urge Biden Administration to Expand Health Coverage to DACA Recipients
WASHINGTON – This week, Representatives Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Barbara Lee (CA-12), and Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) joined Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) to call on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to finalize their proposed rule to expand health coverage for those participating in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, crime victims, and immigrant children.
In April 2023, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed a regulation to make DACA recipients eligible for coverage under Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). This rule also enhances coverage for other groups, including those approved for Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status and children applying for humanitarian relief. If this rule is not soon finalized, individuals in need may not be able to fully benefit from the 2024 Affordable Care Act open enrollment period, which began on November 1, 2023.
“DACA recipients are also disproportionately uninsured and tend to experience higher barriers to health care – these trends all contribute to racial health disparities in the U.S. Youth approved for Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status often have to wait years before receiving a status adjustment. Due to confusion around current rule implementation, access to health coverage has been delayed for many,” wrote the lawmakers.
The lawmakers requested that the Biden Administration address the following questions:
- What is preventing HHS from finalizing the rule, and how can congressional allies help address any barriers?
- When the rule is finalized, what resources will your administration devote to ensuring newly eligible people are aware of their health coverage options? The preamble of the proposed rule stated, “implementation of these changes would be most effective during a period when there are many outreach and enrollment activities occurring.” The time to finalize this policy and expand health coverage is now.
Congressman Castro has long been a leader in efforts to expand access to health care for DACA recipients. In the first weeks of the Biden administration, he led more than 90 House members in a letter calling on President Biden and then-acting HHS Secretary Norris Cochran to grant access to ACA benefits for DACA recipients in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The following year, Congressman Castro and Senator Booker led members of the House and Senate in a letter urging HHS to rescind federal regulations that exclude DACA recipients from eligibility for health insurance subsidies and coverage. In April 2023, after years of work by congressional leaders and grassroots activists, HHS announced a plan to grant access to ACA and Medicaid coverage and financial assistance to DACA recipients.
The letter was also signed by 98 other House members and four Senators. To read the full letter, click here.
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