More than a quarter of DACA recipients are uninsured, report finds

New data shared for the first time on NBC News shows that more than a quarter of young immigrants protected by the Early Childhood Deferral of Arrivals program lack health insurance and access to care facing a burden.

A report released Friday by the National Center for Immigration Law, a non-profit organization for immigrant rights, documented the findings of a recent study that found that 27% of DACA recipients had access to any type of health insurance or other medical plan. It turned out that he reported that he had not joined the

The results show that of the more than 580,000 young people without legal status who are allowed to work or study without fear of deportation under the Obama-era DACA program, about 157,000 suggesting that it is presumed to be uninsured.

The survey was conducted last year among 817 DACA recipients. The plan was developed by Tom K. Wong, founding director of the U.S. Center for Immigration Policy at the University of California, San Diego, with the support of the American Progress Policy Institute United We Dream, the nation’s largest migrant youth initiative. operated. and the National Center for Immigration Law.

An earlier version of the study, conducted in 2021, found the DACA uninsured rate to be 34%. Kika Matos, director of the National Center for Immigration Law, said the slight drop was due to “a healthier economic climate.”

“The last survey was done when it was still in the middle of the pandemic, so we think that economic trends have improved since then … This is probably due to the fact that among DACA recipients who are employed and therefore have access to healthcare, I think it means the numbers are going up,” she said, employers.

Of DACA recipients who reported having health insurance, 80% said they did so through their employer or union.

But unlike most people in America, when DACA recipients lose their jobs and thus their health insurance, they can no longer rely on the federal health insurance program. Federal health insurance programs are often more affordable, but are available only to those with legal immigration status.

Under President Joe Biden, the Department of Health and Human Services will expand access to health insurance for DACA recipients, as lack of federal health coverage contributes to high uninsured rates among DACA recipients. proposed a rule. A study found that DACA recipients donate an estimated $6.2 billion in federal taxes each year to fund such programs.

The Biden proposal would amend the definition of “legitimate presence” to include Medicaid and DACA recipients covered by the Affordable Care Act.

Diana Avila, a DACA recipient, said, “Many of us avoid going to the doctor, so having access to affordable health care gives us great hope.” “The idea of ​​how much it will cost is what makes many of us unwilling to go to the doctor,” she said.

The proposed Biden rule has not yet been finalized, meaning access to the federal health care program for DACA recipients has not yet been agreed upon.

In response to an email from NBC News, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which submitted the proposed rule, said: “While we cannot speculate when the rules will be finalized, the proposed rules will include all provisions by November 1, 2023.”

CMS has solicited public comment on the proposed rule until June 23, saying it would seek comment “specifically on the feasibility of this date and whether another effective date would be considered.”

Avila, 22, was born in Honduras, has lived in Indiana since she was four years old, and was 12 when she received her DACA in 2012.

Barriers to healthcare access

A study from last year found that DACA recipients are three times more likely to be uninsured than the general population, now awaiting the fate of the proposed rule.

DACA has helped many eligible young immigrants access better-paying jobs and educational opportunities, but that is not the case for all beneficiaries.

“There are still large disparities when it comes to access to healthcare for this particular population,” Matos said.

According to the survey, DACA recipients reported other barriers to accessing healthcare.

  • Fifty-seven percent of respondents believed that their immigration status did not entitle them to care.
  • 51% reported being unaware of affordable care and coverage options available.
  • 21% believe that access to health services may adversely affect their immigration status or that of a family member.

Of those surveyed, 71% reported having experienced medical bills or inability to pay in the past.

On top of that, “I also have memories of family members not being able to afford medical bills and having to deal with bills,” Matos added.

Avila remembers growing up in a mixed immigrant family. This means she and her oldest siblings do not have access to affordable medical services, but her younger US-born siblings are eligible for care.

Avila said she was prone to ear infections as a child. Her mother used every possible home remedy to escape doctors and hospitals and avoid high medical bills. In contrast, her younger brothers went to the doctor more often, even for minor problems.

When Avila was 18, she had a concussion while playing soccer at school and had to see a specialist. She recalled that she was hesitant to go because she was worried that she and her family could afford treatment.

“It makes me sad to think about it.

DACA uncertainty and damage to mental health

A decade after its launch, DACA has faced legal challenges from the Trump administration and Republican-led states. The program has not been accepting new registrants since July 2021 due to lawsuits pending in court from Texas and other Republican-led states.

To improve DACA’s chances of surviving legal battles, the Biden administration implemented rules in October that turned the program into federal regulation. A federal judge in Texas is expected to rule on the legality of the new rule this year.

“The volatile nature of DACA is so uncertain that it creates feelings of anxiety, depression and fear related to the future of their status,” Matos said of DACA recipients.

A new report found that nearly half (48%) of DACA recipients who reported experiencing mental or behavioral health problems did not seek care from a mental health professional. The three main barriers were high costs, lack of time, and limited access to providers who could meet their cultural or linguistic needs.

Avila recently graduated from Marian University in Indianapolis with a degree in psychology and works for a nonprofit that provides services to immigrants.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding DACA, she plans to enroll in law school, specializing in immigration law and human rights, in hopes that a more permanent solution to her immigration status will emerge.

“DACA winners are doing so much for society that it’s time for a change,” Avila said. “The Path to Citizenship is probably the best way to assess what DACA recipients have done since coming to the United States.”

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