DACA recipients, known as “Dreamers,” are still waiting to qualify for federal health care insurance programs.
Earlier this year, the Biden administration announced plans to expand health care coverage to those enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. But the proposed change has yet to be finalized, leaving thousands of young adults who were brought to the U.S. as children in limbo.
Diana Flores has lived in Chicago for most of her life.
“I grew up in the South Side of Chicago, close to the McKinley Park area,” Flores said.
Flores has celebrated birthdays and graduations and welcomed a baby boy — all while navigating the barriers of being a DACA recipient.
“It was very hard when I found out that I was pregnant,” Flores said. “Unfortunately, I didn’t have a job at that time. My husband couldn’t add me to his insurance, so I had to pay out of pocket. It was $500 every two weeks since I was considered high risk.”
The DACA program has protected thousands of young adults like Flores from deportation, but they are restricted from applying to federal health insurance programs.
“I know if I’m struggling with it there’s hundreds of thousands of other struggling with it,” Flores said. “It’s just not fair for us since we are also contributing taxes, all the insurances.”
In April, the Biden administration announced plans to extend Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act marketplace to “Dreamers.”
“During the summer people submitted comments in support or against,” Flores said. “Then the agency not only reviews the comments but if they need to make tweaks to what was proposed to do. Unfortunately, Nov. 1 has come around, and the rule has yet to be implemented or finalized.”
Time is ticking, said Martha Sanchez with Young Invincibles, a young adult policy and advocacy organization. While DACA recipients are eligible for employer health coverage, there are still thousands of “Dreamers” without insurance.
“I mean waiting over 10 years to finally have access to the Affordable Care Act marketplace would be significant,” Sanchez said.
Under the proposed rule change, more than 100,000 DACA recipients would be eligible for federal health care for the first time since DACA was implemented in 2012 under the Obama administration.
Flores estimates she paid $20,000 in out-of-pocket medical expenses during her pregnancy.
Flores will be able to obtain citizenship through her marriage but hopes one day all “Dreamers” are able to become citizens as well.
WTTW News contacted the White House and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for an update on the ruling. Neither responded.