The Obama Administration has decided that illegal-alien participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will not be eligible for coverage under the health care reform law. Administration officials also informed states that the participants are not eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently issued a rule that excluded deferred-action recipients from the definition of “legally present.” Under the 2010 health care law, only those who are “legally present” are eligible to enroll in health exchange plans, access coverage subsidies or sign up for the pre-existing condition insurance pool. And the law does not change current restrictions barring illegal aliens from signing up for Medicaid and CHIP.
Still, the health care law could open the door to fraud, irrespective of the Administration’s latest ruling. This is because it failed to include clear guidelines for how to verify eligibility. Medicaid requires use of the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) system. But the health care law does not require SAVE for enrollment in the exchanges. Instead, it allows HHS to develop verification rules.
White House spokesman Nick Papas said the deferred-action policy “was never intended” to confer eligibility for federal health benefits. It is seen, the White House says, as an “exercise of prosecutorial discretion that allows officials to focus on illegal aliens that pose a threat to national security or public safety.
Many in Congress have criticized the Administration’s DACA program as backdoor amnesty. It may give as many as 1.7 million illegal aliens access to a two-year stay of deportation and a work permit.