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Biden extending Affordable Care Act and Medicaid coverage to DACA recipients

President Joe Biden, here in Ireland, has extended the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid coverage to DACA recipients. (Photo:Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

(CNN) — Hundreds of thousands of recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program will for the first time soon be eligible for affordable health care coverage after President Joe Biden announced a plan Thursday to expand access to Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act insurance marketplace.

“We need to give Dreamers the opportunities and support they deserve,” Biden said in a video posted online. “Today, my administration is announcing our plan to expand health coverage for DACA recipients by allowing them to enroll in a plan through the Affordable Care Act or through Medicaid.”

The Department of Health and Human Services will propose a rule expanding the definition of who is considered lawfully present to be eligible for the two health care programs. The move would expand access to affordable health insurance to the 580,000 DACA recipients, which grants temporary legal status to undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children.

The announcement is the latest effort by Biden to strengthen the DACA program as momentum for comprehensive immigration reform has stalled in Congress. Immigration reform advocates have repeatedly pushed for a path to citizenship for DACA recipients, which Biden once again urged Congress to act on.

Immigration has been a frequent political flashpoint between the White House and Republicans, who have criticized the administration’s handling of border security and repeatedly challenged in court the administration’s moves to strengthen DACA and expand other programs granting migrants temporary legal status.

“Today, more Americans have health insurance than ever. Today’s announcement is about giving DACA recipients the same opportunity,” Biden said in the Thursday video.

The White House said in a statement that they expect to “get this done by the end of the month.”

By expanding access to the program, eligible DACA recipients could qualify for income-based financial assistance when they apply for health care through the federal Affordable Care Act marketplace.

Biden added that it’s “past time for Congress to give Dreamers a pathway to citizenship.”

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