On Thursday, April 13, 2023, President Biden announced that hundreds of thousands of immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children will be eligible for Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges. This action will allow participants in the Obama-era’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to access government-funded health insurance. “They’re American in every way except for on paper,” said President Biden. “We need to give Dreamers the opportunities and support they deserve.” The federal government provides funding for Medicaid; however, the program is administered by the states. As such, there is expected to be pushback from states that have been reluctant to expand Medicaid.

Former President Obama launched the DACA program in 2012 to protect immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children and to allow them to work legally in the country. However, the “Dreamers,” as they came to be known, were ineligible for government-subsidized health insurance because they did not meet the definition of having “lawful presence in the U.S.” The Biden Administration will aim to change that definition by the end of the month. The DACA program is in legal jeopardy as it is being challenged in federal court, so it cannot accept new applicants. This move comes at a crucial time as the fate of DACA remains to be seen.

During the COVID-19 Pandemic, many Americans signed up for Medicaid, and the government provided subsidies to lower the costs on the ACA’s market. As of last year, only 8% of Americans are without health insurance but over half of the estimated 20 million undocumented immigrants in the country are without insurance, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Their only option has been to pay for private insurance if their employers did not offer it. This harsh reality left them fearing that one medical emergency would leave them bankrupt and dissuaded them from receiving preventative treatment. The Biden Administration’s action will provide relief to DACA recipients to have their medical needs met, without having to compromise them for financial reasons.

By Yonathan Gonzalez Villatoro, Policy Intern