A “Dreamers” chance at Obamacare

Despite persistent claims that Obamacare provides health insurance to undocumented immigrants, an estimated 1 million of them in California and 10 million more nationally have always been banned from coverage under the law.

A joint study has found, however, that one segment of new arrivals in our state, an estimated 125,000 “Dreamers” who have been granted deferred action immigration status may become eligible for Medi-Cal, California’s version of Medicaid. Medi-Cal has been greatly expanded under health reform, as has Medicaid in states that chose to participate in that expansion.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA, was ordered by President Obama in June 2012, and granted temporary work authorization to undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. In California, residents who are granted deferred action qualify for Medi-Cal – as long as their incomes are low enough to qualify for that state health plan for the poor.

”This state policy could significantly improve health coverage rates among these young immigrants, increase access to the care they need and reduce the burden on safety net providers,” said Laurel Lucia, a policy analyst with the UC Berkeley Labor Center, which conducted the study with the UCSF Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, and the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. 

“However, immigrant youth may still face barriers to enrolling because they lack information on the program or fear deportation for themselves or family members,” added Lucia.

The study estimated that another 175,000 California residents eligible for deferred action may go without coverage because they have not completed their DACA applications or have incomes too high to qualify for Medi-Cal. 

Researchers point out that 96 percent of the immigrant youth surveyed for the study said they had delayed medical care because of costs or a lack of insurance.

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