New Data Underscores Urgency of Lifting DACA Recipients’ Exclusion from Health Programs

May 26, 2023

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Emily Morris, 213-457-7458
Madison Allman, 202-384-1279

New Data Underscores Urgency of Lifting DACA Recipients’ Exclusion from Health Programs

As Biden administration weighs policy changes, data shows inequities persist 

WASHINGTON — A report published today by the National Immigration Law Center shows that recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), who are currently excluded from the Affordable Care Act (ACA), are disproportionately uninsured and face significant health disparities. The report comes as the Biden administration prepares to reverse the exclusion that has kept DACA recipients from accessing public health coverage.

Under DACA, immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and meet other requirements can access temporary protection from deportation along with work authorization. DACA recipients are considered lawfully present. However, in 2012, DACA recipients were excluded from public insurance programs otherwise available to other lawfully present immigrants.

Kica Matos, president of the National Immigration Law Center, said“Our health is interconnected, and a community’s health depends on all residents having access to care. DACA recipients contribute daily to the success of this country but have been unjustly denied accessible and affordable insurance options. The data in this report underlines the clear need to lift these barriers as soon as possible. We welcome the Biden administration’s steps toward addressing this injustice. It is imperative that administration act deliberately to finalize its proposed rule so DACA recipients can access the health care they need as soon as possible.

This report analyzes findings from a 2022 survey of over 800 DACA recipients, administered by Tom K. Wong of the University of California, San Diego, United We Dream, the National Immigration Law Center, and the Center for American Progress. Topline findings include:

  • 27 percent indicated they are not covered by any kind of health insurance or other health care plan.  
  • 71 percent reported they or a family member had been unable to pay medical bills or expenses. 
  • 57 percent of uninsured respondents believe they face barriers to affordable health care coverage due to their immigration status. 
  • 51 percent of uninsured respondents are not aware of any affordable care or coverage options available to them. 

This is the second annual report by NILC tracking DACA recipients’ access to health care. This year’s report, released during Mental Health Awareness Month, includes new data on DACA recipients’ access to mental health care. Nearly half (48 percent) of respondents who indicated they have experienced mental or behavioral health issues say that they are not receiving counseling, therapy, or psychiatric services from a mental health professional. Within this group, 56 percent report that costs are too expensive, 47 percent report lack of time to access care, and 34 percent report inability to find a mental health care provider who meets their cultural or language needs.

The report highlights the urgency of removing the barriers that prevent many DACA recipients from being able to access affordable care, and notes that the Biden administration’s rule is a first step. The report includes additional policy and legislative recommendations, including that Congress must pass a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients and immigrant youth.

To view the full survey results, visit this link.