Friday, August 31, 2012

DACA DREAMers Ineligible for Affordable Health Care

From the National Immigration Law Center:

For the past few months, the National Immigration Law Center has been proudly working with Dreamers to ensure the successful implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows approved individuals to remain in the U.S. without the threat of deportation. 

The Obama administration unfortunately detracted from this tremendous progress.  Rather than building off the two significant and bold achievements this past term - federal health care reform under the Affordable Care Act and DACA - the administration has decided to exclude DACA beneficiaries from affordable health coverage now and under the Affordable Care Act.
Prior to yesterday, existing federal eligibility rules would have allowed DACA individuals to be considered eligible for affordable health coverage, like any other individuals granted deferred action. Thus, in order to exclude DACA beneficiaries and treat them differently from others with deferred action, the administration quietly released the following two policy announcements on August 28, 2012, both of which take immediate effect.  The announcements include 1) an interim final rule that excludes DACA individuals from key features of the Affordable Care Act, and 2) guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that prevents children or pregnant women approved for DACA deferred action from enrolling in affordable, government health insurance under the Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. 

As a result of these two policy announcements, DACA beneficiaries will have the same access to health care as undocumented individuals have today:  very little, except emergency care, public health services, community health centers where available, and state-funded health programs.  In real terms, this means:
 A 15 year old boy, who is in school and wants to play sports, but has asthma will remain uninsured and without a regular doctor to visit. 
 A single, pregnant woman who becomes eligible for DACA is likely to remain without affordable and easy access to prenatal care and dental care, making it a challenge to see a regular doctor during her pregnancy to make sure her pregnancy is going well. 

Yesterday’s announcements not only erect barriers for DACA-eligible individuals to obtain health care, especially for those who may need it, but also creates a slippery-slope with far-reaching implications for the treatment of newly legalized immigrants at both the federal and state levels.  Also, it sets a dangerous precedent for future federal legalization proposals to create two classes of future citizens and sanction discrimination based on immigration status.  Moreover, the administration’s announcement is particularly troubling because it may give states hostile to immigrants the political cover to further restrict opportunities for DACA-eligible individuals for other basic rights.  Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has already declared that Arizona would attempt to deny DACA beneficiaries access to drivers’ licenses and other state benefits.  This led the way for similarly short-sighted statements by governors in Mississippi, Nebraska, and Texas. 

We’re very disappointed that the administration decided to make these detrimental policy changes .  Because the bulk of the Affordable Care Act does not go into effect until 2014, we can’t help but question the timing of this decision, just two months before the election.  Yet history demonstrates that it is unlikely that the administration’s announcement will effectively appease and prevent attacks from anti-immigrant or anti-health reform opponents in the few months left before the election.


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