WASHINGTON (Reuters)—The Biden administration is seeking to allow immigrants illegally brought to the United States as children greater access to health insurance through federal programs, the White House said on Thursday.
The proposal would allow participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, to access to health insurance under Medicaid and Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges, it said.
"Health care should be a right. I've worked hard to get more Americans health insurance than ever before," President Joe Biden said on Twitter, adding the move would give "Dreamers the same opportunities."
The proposed rule comes as efforts to further protect the so-called "Dreamer" immigrants stalls in Congress and faces legal challenges. About 580,000 people were enrolled as of last year in the Obama-era 2012 DACA program, which grants protection from deportation and work permits.
An expansion would allow DACA recipients to enroll in coverage under the joint federal-state Medicaid program or through private insurers participating in the exchanges established by the 2010 ACA law also passed under Democratic then-President Barack Obama and Biden, his vice president.
Eight U.S. states have already expanded state insurance access to health coverage regardless of immigration status, according to data from the healthcare policy organization Kaiser Family Foundation.
Biden promised during his 2020 presidential campaign to protect "Dreamers" and their families after Republican then-President Donald Trump tried to end DACA. Biden this week said he plans to seek a second four-year term but has not formally announced his reelection bid.
The president, in a video, reiterated his call for Congress to establish a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients, adding: "While we work toward that goal ... we need to give Dreamers the opportunities and the support they deserve."
One source familiar with the plan said it could take months or longer to finalize through the federal regulatory process.
Democratic Representative Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which last month urged the administration to expand access, called the move "a long overdue step toward immigrant justice."
Republicans, however, have cast doubt on DACA and other immigration reforms.
Texas and other U.S. states with Republican attorneys general are challenging the program in court, while House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, whose fellow Republicans control the U.S. House of Representatives, has said immigration cannot be addressed until the U.S. border is secure.
(Reporting by Ted Hesson and Trevor Hunnicutt; additional reporting by Moira Warburton; writing by Susan Heavey; editing by Jonathan Oatis)