In a recent letter from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) concerning individuals with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the HHS issued a statement concerning whether these individuals qualify for Medicaid. The letter directed to State Health Official and the Medicaid Director was intended to inform them regarding the implications for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) announcement on June 15, 2012, wherein they state that it will consider providing temporary relief from removal by exercising deferred action on a case-by-case basis with respect to certain individuals under age 31 as of June 15, 2012 who meet certain guidelines, including that they came to the United States as children and do not present a risk to national security or public safety. This process is referred to by DHS as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DHS has explained that the DACA process is designed to ensure that governmental resources for the removal of individuals are focused on high priority cases, including those involving a danger to national security or a risk to public safety, and not on low priority cases. DHS began accepting requests for consideration of deferred action on August 15, 2012.
Section 214 of the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 (CHIPRA) gave states the option to provide Medicaid and CHIP eligibility to children and/or pregnant women who are “lawfully residing” in the United States and otherwise eligible for Medicaid or CHIP. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid services (CMS) provided guidance on the definition of “lawfully residing” in a July 1, 2010 State Health Official Letter. Because the reasons that DHS offered for adopting the DACA process do not pertain to eligibility for Medicaid or CHIP, HHS has determined that these benefits should not be extended as a result of DHS deferring action under DACA. For this reason, individuals with deferred action under the DACA process shall not be eligible for Medicaid and CHIP under the CHIPRA state option with respect to any of the categories (1)-(9) set forth in the July 1, 2010 letter.
While many Republicans have argued that the Deferred Action would grant these individuals with more public benefits, the letter from HHS clearly demonstrates that such individuals will not be eligible for Medicaid benefits. This means that U.S. taxpayers are not going to be paying into the Medicare/Medicaid system thinking that those services are going to individuals who are not here legally. While health care should always be provided to children who truly need it in order to stay healthy, this letter is in line with the position of the Obama Administration that this relief is for those low risk offenders who deserve a reprieve while Congress figures out what to do regarding all of these young individuals who were brought to the U.S. as children. In the meantime, it is important that those who are seeking Deferred Action understand that the benefits of this action are limited to what DHS has granted during this process at this time.