All children deserve to have the resources they need to thrive, regardless of their immigration status.  In the U.S., however, immigration status keeps millions of children from gaining access to those resources, including health care. In particular, recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) have had limited options for health care coverage since the program was created more than a decade ago. Recent action by the Biden Administration will offer many of these DACA recipients additional options for health care coverage.

The DACA program was created to protect young adults who were brought to the United States as children from deportation and provide them with work authorization for temporary, renewable periods. Approximately 600,000 DACA recipients from nearly 200 countries of birth currently reside in the United States. While DACA removed many barriers — for instance, the program allowed a person to access health insurance through their employer — recipients have still encountered obstacles to affordable health care coverage. These obstacles stem from a determination by the U.S. Department of  Health and Human Services that DACA recipients would not be considered lawfully present for purposes of eligibility for Affordable Care Act coverage and subsidies. Additionally, DACA recipients could get only very limited coverage through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Recently, the Biden Administration took a significant step forward by finalizing a federal regulation that removes some of these restrictions and makes DACA recipients eligible for health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Starting in November 2024, DACA recipients will be able to purchase health insurance through or their state Marketplace equivalent and will be eligible for subsidies that make the coverage more affordable. This change is expected to allow more than 100,000 DACA recipients to gain access to quality, affordable health care coverage.

This is a momentous occasion for DACA recipients and it should be celebrated as an action that puts our nation one step closer to achieving health equity for all. 

With that said,  immigration status still keeps many children and youth from accessing equitable health care. Congress and the Administration must continue reducing these barriers.

Recommended actions include:

  • Passing legislation such as the LIFT the Bar Act and the HEAL for Immigrant Families Act, which would repeal restrictions on immigrant eligibility for federal health care coverage programs.
  • Strengthening federal language access requirements to improve meaningful access to health care for individuals with limited English proficiency.
  • Equipping health care providers and insurers with cultural competency training to address the specific needs of immigrant communities.
  • Expanding grants and partnerships with community-based organizations that serve immigrants to bolster access to health care.