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Biden moves to expand DACA recipients' access to government-funded health insurance

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services building is shown in Washington, D.C. A proposed rule will expand government-funded health care access to DACA recipients.
SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services building is shown in Washington, D.C. A proposed rule will expand government-funded health care access to DACA recipients.

Updated April 13, 2023 at 3:56 PM ET

The Biden administration has announced a plan to expand access to Affordable Care Act and Medicaid coverage for DACA recipients. The change would treat DACA recipients more like other groups with temporary legal status.

The Department of Health and Human Services will propose an amended definition of "lawful presence" to include recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the White House said on Thursday.

"We recognize that every day counts, and we expect to get this done by the end of the month," the White House said in a statement. The proposed rule would allow DACA recipients to apply for coverage in the health insurance marketplace and through their state Medicaid agency.

Advocacy groups commended the Biden administration for the move.

"It's the right thing to do and reflects President Biden's continued recognition of DACA recipients' dignity and contributions to our nation," Maribel Hernández Rivera, an American Civil Liberties Union deputy national political director, said in a statement.

DACA, created in 2012 by the Obama administration, allows roughly 600,000 immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children to live and work in the country. The program doesn't lead to permanent status, and the Biden administration has called on Congress to create a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients.

DACA recipients are already eligible to apply for some health services in the U.S., including emergency Medicaid, which pays for emergency medical treatment for people who meet their state's Medicaid eligibility requirements but not citizenship and immigration status requirements.

This announcement comes as the DACA program itself is in legal jeopardy — a federal judge has ruled that it is illegal and paused new applications. Existing recipients are still protected while the ruling is appealed.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Kaitlyn Radde
Kaitlyn Radde is an intern for the Graphics and Digital News desks, where she has covered everything from the midterm elections to child labor. Before coming to NPR, she covered education data at Chalkbeat and contributed data analysis to USA TODAY coverage of Black political representation and NCAA finances. She is a graduate of Indiana University.
Joel Rose is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers immigration and breaking news.