President Joe Biden announced a proposal to expand Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges to recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA) in a pre-recorded video. The White House plans to open eligibility for the DACA recipients’ health care programs by the end of the month. The current law defines “lawful presence” as present in the US due to permanent residency, temporary visa, political asylum, or other lawful reasons. However, DACA recipients, commonly known as “Dreamers,” are neither US citizens nor legal permanent residents. Therefore, many of them do not have any health care coverage.
Health and Human Services Secretary, Xavier Becerra, welcomed the decision, noting that about one-third of the nearly 580,000 DACA recipients lack health insurance. Advocates argue that DACA recipients and undocumented immigrants deserve health care coverage as they significantly contributed to the US economy during the COVID-19 pandemic. They provided care and support to US citizens, small businesses, health care industry, and the food sector. The decision is a step towards rectifying an unfair system that denies proper health care to individuals who help the country function.
While immigrant advocates praised the president’s proposal to expand health care coverage to DACA recipients, some conservatives criticized it, such as Republican Senator Tom Cotton. Cotton called the plan an “insult to American citizenship” and warned that it would incentivize further illegal immigration.
Expanding health care coverage for DACA recipients will help them prioritize their health and lead healthier lives. It will enable them to access the necessary medical facilities, treatments and tests, and alleviate their financial and psychological burdens. The Biden administration’s decision shows that health care is a right and not an asset in the US. The policy jumpstarts the path towards better health care for immigrants and ensures a healthier country.
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