DREAMers in New York will continue to be eligible for Medicaid, even if DACA expires

Will other states follow suit?

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 22:  Demonstrators, many of them recent immigrants to America, protest the government shutdown and the lack of a deal on DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) outside of Federal Plaza on January 22, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 22: Demonstrators, many of them recent immigrants to America, protest the government shutdown and the lack of a deal on DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) outside of Federal Plaza on January 22, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

New York recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will continue to be eligible for state-funded Medicaid — regardless if DACA is terminated.

“Information you give us will not be shared,” according to the website of the state’s health insurance marketplace NY State of Health. A common fear among undocumented immigrants is that their information could be shared with the Trump administration if they seek health insurance.

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Last September, the president decided to phase out the DACA program, which grants temporary deportation relief and work authorization in two-year periods to certain qualified immigrants brought to the United States as children. The move left many scrambling. A recent San Francisco federal court ruling temporarily blocked the Trump administration’s efforts to end the program, allowing the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency to continue renewing DACA applications. While Congress continues to deliberate a permanent legal solution for the thousands of so-called DREAMers, New York has ensured they will receive health insurance regardless of their status.

Each day DACA beneficiaries nationwide lose their protection from deportation and possibly their right to work. The Trump administration says the program “officially” ends in March, but an average of 122 immigrants lose their status daily. This means many could lose access to employer-based health insurance. According a recent Center for American Progress (CAP) survey, 57 percent of DREAMers received health insurance through their job after their DACA applications were approved. (ThinkProgress is editorially independent of CAP.)

If DACA protections for any of the 42,000 New Yorkers expire and they lose their job-based plan, they are eligible for Medicaid.

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) announcement came after organizations petitioned him to offer Medicaid to DREAMers, according to Politico. This action only applies to DACA recipients, and not other immigrants from El Salvador or Haiti who lost their temporary protected status, a state official told ThinkProgress.

For DACA grantees without employer-based insurance, options are limited. Nationwide, DACA recipients cannot purchase health care on the Obamacare marketplace, but some states have extended coverage using state dollars. Currently, California, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and the District of Columbia allow DACA grantees to apply for state-funded Medicaid. (In Minnesota, DACA grantees can apply for limited benefits.) ThinkProgress reached out to each state’s health department to ask if DREAMers are still eligible for coverage even if their protections expire; only a California official responded immediately to the inquiry. Of the approximately 690,000 DACA recipients nationwide, 223,000 are California residents.

“Individuals in a deferred action status category continue to be eligible for full scope Medi-Cal if they otherwise meet all other Medi-Cal program eligibility requirements,” said Carol Sloan, a public information officer for California’s Medicaid program, Medi-Cal. DACA is not a specific eligibility category in California; individuals with DACA status are eligible under a broader immigration category called Permanently Residing in the U.S. Under Color of Law (PRUCOL) — which is the same approach Cuomo clarified on Tuesday, but New York added recipients will remain covered if program ends. Therefore, coverage shouldn’t be affected unless a California recipient’s income increases or they move.

When asked whether California would consider covering DACA grantees when the program officially ends in March, Sloan did not immediately reply. If the DACA program officially ends, California also offers undocumented immigrants limited Medi-Cal benefits.

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Advocates told the Washington Post that many immigrants who came to the country legally are avoiding accessing health services for fear of the Trump administration gaining hold of critical information about them or loved one who are vulnerable to deportation. This chilling effect has serious ramifications. Forgoing care is dangerous — and it’s even more so when considering the amount of fear and toxic stress immigrants are currently other.


UPDATE: This post has been updated to further clarify that New York had considered DACA grantees eligible for coverage before Tuesday’s announcement.