Youth Granted ‘DACA’ Status Should Also Get Healthcare, Say Legislators

By EGP Staff Report

U.S. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard is one several members of Congress calling on President Obama to reverse Department of Health and Human Service policies restricting eligibility for health coverage to DREAMers granted deferred action through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy.

Roybal-Allard, whose efforts led 81 of her colleagues to send a letter to the president to take action on making healthcare available to young people who, under a policy the president himself implemented, are being allowed to remain in the U.S. without fear of deportation.

“These young people are Americans in every respect except on paper, and they deserve the same access to health care as all other children in this country,” said Roybal-Allard in a statement releases this week. “Excluding them from services will not only deny these kids the care they need, but will also lead to increased health care costs for everyone if they are forced to seek care at the emergency room instead of a doctor’s office,” Roybal-Allard added.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) earlier this week released the latest numbers on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative. According to the agency, during the first five months of the program, August 15, 2012 – December 13, 2012, 368,000 of the estimated 1.8 million young people potentially eligible have applied for DACA status. To date, nearly 103,000 individuals have been granted deferred action status and another 157,000 applications are under review.

In August, however, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued an Interim Final Rule that explicitly excludes youth granted deferred action from key features of the Affordable Care Act including participation in the state health insurance exchanges, according to Roybal-Allard.

Health and Human Services has also taken steps to prevent children and pregnant women, who prior to the new policies would have been eligible to secure affordable health insurance under the state option available in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), from enrolling in affordable health coverage programs.

In their letter to the president, the legislators wrote: “There is no principled reason to treat differently young people who received deferred action through DACA and any other person who has received deferred action. The unfairness of singling out DACA beneficiaries is also clear when you consider that many of them will now be studying alongside students with nonimmigrant visas who have not been excluded from the ACA.”

The letter went on to say that the signors to the letter, many of them members of the Congressional Black, Hispanic, Asian Pacific American and Progressive Caucuses, look forward to working with the president “to reform our broken immigration system so that newly classified immigrants can become full participants in our society, including having access to affordable health care through the ACA.”

They went on to urge the president to “take the necessary steps to enable these young people who are American in every way but on paper to obtain the basic coverage and care they so clearly need and deserve.”

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December 20, 2012  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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