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Biden administration unveils plan to expand health care to DACA recipients

The Department of Health and Human Services will propose a rule amending the definition of “lawful presence” for Medicaid and Affordable Care Act coverage.

DENVER — Last week, the Biden Administration announced a plan to expand health care coverage for Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act to DACA recipients. 

According to a release from the White House, "The Department of Health and Human Services will shortly propose a rule amending the definition of 'lawful presence,' for purposes of Medicaid and Affordable Care Act coverage, to include DACA recipients."

The administration expects to get the proposed rule done by the end of the month. If finalized, the rule will make DACA recipients eligible for the programs for the first time.  

"That is an incredibly important service that folks need to be able to access," said Marissa Molina, a Colorado-based Regional Government Affairs Director for the organization FWD.us.

She's also on the board of trustees for Metropolitan State University of Denver and is a former DACA recipient. 

"I can tell you that from meeting with our immigrant students services director and our students themselves, so many of them are not able to afford health care because they can't pay for private health insurance," she said. "And it continues to be a barrier for so many of our students. How do I access affordable health care that allows me to enroll in college, but also allows them to be and treat themselves and their health."

Credit: KUSA

Molina says it's not just at MSU Denver that she hears stories of the barriers with health care. 

"And I work with institutions of higher ed across the state of Colorado. One of them also being CSU. And one of the things we were seeing with students is they couldn't have their wisdom teeth pulled because they didn't have access to dental insurance. And so things like that - that may seem like, 'Well, you just go to the dentist and get this done' are things that folks don't have access to," she explained, while also acknowledging that thousands of Americans who are also uninsured may struggle with similar procedures. 

FWD.us conducted an analysis of data from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

They found that nationwide, nearly half (46%) or about 270,000 DACA recipients without medical insurance coverage would be potentially eligible for medical insurance through Affordable Care Act coverage. 

In Colorado, they also found nearly half (49%) or 6,000 DACA recipients in the state do not have medical insurance. 

"And I can tell you that until I got my first job out of college in 2014, I had DACA, but I didn't have access to health care," she said.

DACA recipients may be eligible for emergency Medicaid. Emergency Medicaid pays for emergency medical treatment for people who meet Medicaid eligibility requirements in their state, but do not meet Medicaid’s citizenship and immigration status requirements, according to the White House. 


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