Biden Extends Obamacare to ‘Dreamers’ Lacking Health Plans

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden will allow a group of undocumented US residents to access health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, a change that comes as the president’s campaign looks to make inroads with Latino communities.

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The Department of Health and Human Services announced Friday it would publish a final rule extending Obamacare access to people under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which provides provides work permits and deportation prevention for people who came to the US as undocumented children.

About one-third of DACA recipients, known as “Dreamers,” don’t have health insurance, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said. The administration expects 100,000 people to sign up for heath care plans.

“Dreamers are part of the American fabric. They’re our friends, neighbors and coworkers, and we must do right by them,” Neera Tanden, Biden’s domestic policy advisor, told reporters.

Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump’s campaign, however, issued a statement sharply criticizing the move — raising the prospect he might try to unwind it if he defeats Biden in the November general election.

“This is unfair and unsustainable,” Trump campaign spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt said in a statement Friday. Americans should not be “forced to watch their jobs and public resources stolen by people who illegally entered our country,” she added.

More than 800,000 people have received protections from the DACA program since its 2012 inception, though not all remain under it. DACA recipients had been excluded until now from eligibility to enroll in plans under the Affordable Care Act.

“They are Americans, plain and simple, and like other Americans, President Biden wants to make sure they get the health care they need,” Becerra said. Republicans have generally opposed a deal that includes a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers. Tanden called on them to do so. A bipartisan Senate deal that collapsed earlier this year didn’t provide a pathway.

The move comes as polls show Biden has lost ground among Latino voters. While DACA recipients can’t vote, Latinos make up more than 90% of the program.

Some DACA recipients still might be ineligible for ACA plans due to certain requirements to qualify for the federally subsidized plans, including if they receive health insurance through their employer, or if their household income is too high, officials familiar with the change said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The new rule takes effect on Nov. 1, four days before the US presidential election. That will trigger a 60-day window for newly eligible people to sign up for a plan. Coverage can begin as early as Dec. 1, HHS said in a statement.

(Updates with Trump campaign comment in fifth, sixth paragraph)

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