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Hirono, Colleagues Urge Biden Administration to Expand Health Coverage to DACA Recipients

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) joined over a hundred colleagues from the House and Senate in calling on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to finalize their proposed rule to expand health coverage for those participating in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, crime victims, and immigrant children.

“DACA recipients are also disproportionately uninsured and tend to experience higher barriers to health care—these trends all contribute to racial health disparities in the U.S.,” wrote the lawmakers. “Youth approved for Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status often have to wait years before receiving a status adjustment. Due to confusion around current rule implementation, access to health coverage has been delayed for many.”

In April 2023, the Department of HHS proposed a regulation to make DACA recipients eligible for coverage under Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). This rule also enhances coverage for other groups, including those approved for Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status and children applying for humanitarian relief. If this rule is not soon finalized, individuals in need may not be able to fully benefit from the 2024 Affordable Care Act open enrollment period, which began on November 1, 2023.

The lawmakers requested that the Biden Administration address the following questions:

  1. What is preventing HHS from finalizing the rule, and how can congressional allies help address any barriers?
  2. When the rule is finalized, what resources will your administration devote to ensuring newly eligible people are aware of their health coverage options? The preamble of the proposed rule stated, “implementation of these changes would be most effective during a period when there are many outreach and enrollment activities occurring.” The time to finalize this policy and expand health coverage is now.

The letter, also led by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA), Joaquin Castro (D-TX), and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), was signed by Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Laphonza Butler (D-CA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Alex Padilla (D-CA), and over 90 other House members.

The full text of the letter is available here.