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HHS Ends the Bar on Affordable Health Coverage for People With DACA

Approximately 100,000 people with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and certain other statuses could gain access to affordable health coverage due to a new Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rule.

The rule modifies the immigration-related eligibility requirements for enrollment in the Affordable Care Act marketplaces and Basic Health Programs, starting in November of this year. As a result, people will have more protections against medical debt, better access to health services, and a higher likelihood of experiencing better health outcomes, giving them more opportunities to thrive.

The rule also makes a series of technical changes that will result in improvements to the enrollment process for affordable health coverage programs, and it eliminates delays in health coverage eligibility for people in a variety of immigration application processes — including some who experience significant delays due to backlogs in the immigration system.

For a variety of reasons, such as limited exposure to media outlets that are often relied on for outreach efforts, people who are helped by this important policy change may never find out they are newly eligible to enroll in coverage. Many of them also may have been turned away in the past if they inquired about the possibility of enrolling.

It will take significant effort to ensure that the potential of this rule is realized. Here are some important steps that can be taken to ensure people are able to benefit:

  • HHS, state marketplaces, and organizations trusted by people with DACA and by others helped by this rule should conduct outreach to ensure that people know they now have the opportunity to enroll in coverage. These groups can use their communication vehicles and platforms — including but not limited to social media — to raise awareness about the new opportunity to enroll in coverage.
  • Health coverage navigators, insurance agents, and other groups that provide application and enrollment assistance should learn more about the technical changes in this rule so that they are ready to help enroll people during this year’s open enrollment period. 
  • HHS, state marketplaces, health coverage assisters, and other trusted groups should reassure people that enrolling in ACA marketplace coverage will not negatively impact them or their family members when they apply for an immigration status and go through a public charge assessment.

While this rule helps to end the bar on eligibility for many, there is more work to be done to achieve universal coverage and to remove inequities in health coverage for people who are immigrants in our nation. Congress should remove the remaining immigration-related barriers to health coverage program eligibility, and both the Health Equity and Access under the Law for Immigrant Families Act and the LIFT the BAR Act would make significant progress on this front. In the meantime, states can take action by creating programs that expand access to affordable health coverage to more people who are barred from federally funded coverage programs.

Ending barriers to health coverage will help people who are immigrants have peace of mind and experience better health outcomes, while strengthening their ability to thrive.