DACA recipients eligible for Affordable Care Act coverage under CMS rule

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced Friday the agency will not exclude immigrants with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protections from receiving coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The rule will grant health insurance to approximately 100,000 uninsured DACA recipients, CMS estimated in a news release.

“HHS is committed to making health coverage accessible for people DACA recipients—Dreamers—who have worked hard to live the American Dream. Dreamers are our neighbors and friends; they are students, teachers, social workers, doctors and nurses. More importantly, they are fellow Americans,” said Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra in a statement. “More than one third of DACA recipients currently do not have health insurance, so making them eligible to enroll in coverage will improve their health and well-being, and help the overall economy.”

Some DACA recipients who enroll in a qualified health plan may be eligible for premium tax credit advance payments and cost-sharing reductions. Compared to the general population, DACA recipients are three times more likely to be uninsured, meaning they are more likely to rack up medical debt and delay preventive care.

The American Medical Association applauded the administration's decision Friday.

"The AMA knows that expanding access and advancing health equity improves population health and is likely to result in reduced costs for American taxpayers since individuals without insurance are less likely to receive preventative or routine health screenings and may delay necessary medical care, often resulting in higher health care costs down the road," said AMA President Jesse Ehrenfeld, M.D., in a statement.

Since 2012, more than 800,000 people with DACA protections have not received ACA coverage, according to the Center for Law and Social Policy, a national nonprofit advocating for people with low incomes.

“Access to healthcare is a human right, and immigrants deserve the same access to it as everyone else,” the nonprofit said in a news release. “We are ready to work with the Biden Administration on outreach to implement this new rule.”

The rule will take affect in November. DACA recipients will be able to enroll in a plan for a special period of 60 days. CMS said they are prepared to provide education to groups helping immigrant communities enroll in health coverage.

CMS updated the definitions for “lawfully present” to allow the federal government and states administer programs more efficiently. It is also changing the definition of “qualified noncitizen” for Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), according to a CMS fact sheet.

DACA recipients are not eligible for Medicaid under this rule, though the administration proposed the idea in April 2023. The AMA also supports expanding access to the Medicaid and CHIP programs.