AG Tong Joins Effort to Reduce Barriers to Healthcare for Dreamers

In 2012, the Obama Administration created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program, which granted legal work authorization and protection from deportation to young people who had been brought to this country at a young age.

With legal work authorizations, Dreamers perform a wide variety of critical job functions, including as teachers, health care workers, and information technology specialists, among numerous other professions.

Such work allows these DACA recipients to provide vital financial support to their families, and to enhance the economies of their local communities — contributing approximately $8.7 billion each year in federal, state, and local taxes across the country. In 2020 alone, Connecticut’s 3,300 DACA recipients contributed more than $300 million to the state’s economy.

The multi-state letter sent this month to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra supports the proposed Biden Administration rule designed to ensure DACA recipients can obtain affordable health insurance, regardless of whether their employer provides coverage. 

“Dreamers contribute billions of dollars each year in federal, state and local taxes,” Attorney General Tong said in a release on Monday. They deserve the same access to the federal healthcare programs their tax dollars fund as any other worker, student, or parent growing up and raising a family here. I applaud the Biden Administration’s effort to remove unfair and unnecessary barriers to basic healthcare.”

On April 13, 2023, HHS published a proposed rule that would expand access to healthcare coverage for DACA recipients – first and foremost, by amending the outdated definition of “lawfully present” for purposes of Medicaid and ACA coverage to include DACA recipients.

While DACA recipients may have access to employer-sponsored health insurance, they are ineligible for ACA, Medicaid, CHIP, and Marketplace coverage even though other, similarly situated immigrant groups qualify for some coverage options. The new rule will correct this long-standing error and help Dreamers obtain a new lifeline of support. 

The letter signed by 19 attorneys general asserts that a substantial portion, 34 percent, of DACA recipients are uninsured, while others face significant gaps in coverage, high medical bills, and fear of seeking public services.

The letter also explains that the DACA population is aging and having children, further exacerbating these healthcare access and coverage issues. As of 2021, DACA recipients had more than 250,000 U.S.-born children, who depend on their parents for insurance coverage.

The new rule will mitigate these issues by expanding Medicaid and ACA eligibility to include qualified DACA recipients and allowing them to purchase affordable insurance coverage to cover themselves and their dependent children.

Access to health insurance improves public health, and this proposed expansion of healthcare coverage will benefit not just DACA recipients themselves but also the communities in which they live. 

In filing the letter, Attorney General Tong joined the attorneys general of California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.