Health Insurance for DACA Recipients

Updated on January 5, 2024

At a Glance

  • DACA recipients can obtain health insurance through various options such as state-funded programs, Medicaid, employer-sponsored insurance, and private plans.
  • Options like Medi-Cal Benefits (in California) and community health centers also provide avenues for healthcare access.
  • Barriers and limitations exist, leading to challenges in accessing affordable coverage and health inequities for some DACA recipients.
  • Deportation poses significant health risks, as immigrants may lose access to necessary healthcare and face detrimental conditions in detention facilities.

Immigration policies took an interesting and controversial turn when the Trump administration took over. Millions of immigrants suddenly feared for their careers and future in the U.S. What rights do they have? Do they retain the ones they have come to know?

DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) dreamers got some rights through the Obama administration. They could possibly get a DACA Green Card, they are eligible for certain scholarships, and they are allowed to live and work in the U.S. They just aren’t allowed to vote.

But life isn’t always that simple if you have a DACA status. You may perhaps need access to certain services and you are unsure about your eligibility for it. You need health insurance, but where do you even start looking? Are you allowed to get health insurance in this country? You’ll find some answers to your questions here about DACA health insurance.

Can DACA Recipients Get Health Insurance in the U.S.?

It may feel like the current administration is against you, but that doesn’t mean you are exempt from basic services. You, as a DACA recipient, may get DACA health insurance in the U.S. It’s a matter of looking for the right service providers and submitting your application.

Do you already have a few service providers in mind? If not, you’re in luck. We’ll list a few options for your consideration.

Healthcare Options for Dreamers

The dream is still alive. You can still make a living in the U.S. if you already have a DACA status. Please remember to renew your DACA status whilst you can. Part of life is looking after yourself, and a good health insurance provider can help with that. Here follow a few options you can consider for DACA health insurance:

  • State-Funded Programs
  • Medicaid
  • Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance
  • Medi-Cal Benefits (California) 
  • Community Health Centers
  • Affordable Care Act (ACA) 

Read on to learn about each option.

State-Funded Program

DACA grantees are eligible for state-funded health care programs. They may even be eligible for more health insurance programs compared to undocumented immigrants without DACA status. Pregnant DACA grantees could, for instance, be eligible for CHIP health insurance during pregnancy if their state chooses such options.


Limited types of emergency services could be paid for by Medicaid. This includes labor and delivery during childbirth. There is a big misconception about DACA grantees’ eligibility for Medicaid. In some states, people with DACA status are eligible for it. Here follows a list of the states in which you could still be eligible for Medicaid with a DACA status:

  • New York
  • California
  • Massachusetts
  • Washington D.C.

Make sure you keep your DACA status renewed to be eligible for Medicaid benefits. You also need to be a resident of the states listed above or else you won’t be eligible.

Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance

DACA recipients are allowed to work in this country. You are therefore eligible for employer-sponsored health insurance. That’s to say if your employer offers sponsored health insurance. If so, this may very well be your most effective option available. It may help you save lots of money and still have decent access to health care.

Medi-Cal Benefits (California) 

The state of California has a DACA health insurance service option through Medi-Cal Benefits. DACA recipients in California are very fortunate to have this option available. This health insurance service is open to low-income children and families, no matter their immigration status. People who meet certain wealth eligibility criteria are eligible for the program. Here follows a basic list of the requirements:

  • Household income may not surpass 138% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL)
  • Applicants must be California residents.

There might be some more minor details in the eligibility criteria that could determine whether you are in fact eligible. You can research Medi-Cal Benefits to confirm your eligibility.

Community Health Centers

The concept of Community Health Centers was established more than 50 years ago by H. Jack Geiger who studied the benefits caused by community-based health care. The model emerged to target the roots of poverty by combining local resources and federal funds to establish clinics in urban and rural areas throughout America. Communities were empowered through these initiatives seeing that consumer-majority boards governed the clinics. In the process, it produced compelling proof that affordable and accessible health care produces compounding benefits. Visit your nearest community health center and ask for medical assistance. It could be an adequate DACA health insurance alternative.

Affordable Care Act (ACA) 

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) allows states to apply for a waiver that allows undocumented immigrants to pay with their own money for health coverage through Covered California. This means you can obtain health coverage on California’s exchange but you won’t be eligible for any subsidies since you aren’t a citizen or resident.

Current Barriers to Healthcare Access 

The Obama administration granted DACA recipients access to many kinds of rights and services. They were temporarily protected from deportation, allowed to work, but had no pathway to permanent residency or citizenship. The Trump administration ordered DACA to be rescinded and soon thereafter Congress had to pursue a permanent legislative solution.

These kinds of immigration law issues have caused harm to the rights of immigrants in the country. DACA Dreamers suffer from a lack of health care coverage as a result and experience the health inequities associated with the lack of access to medical aid.

The protections may not be enough to assist DACA recipients. Some Dreamers are still ineligible for Medicaid, CHIP, and marketplace plans under the Affordable Care Act. Those with jobs who are offered employment-sponsored insurance are fortunate. They are automatically eligible based on their eligibility to work. DACA students pursuing higher education are obligated to have some kind of health insurance by school policies. They are forced to accept student health insurance offered by the school’s service provider. But these plans are often more expensive than the marketplace and sponsored health insurance products. The DACA s may have access to health coverage but it places further pressure on them considering they are still students who need to cover expensive tuition fees and other study-related costs.

Dreamers now have a lack of access to federal programs which forces them to look to private health insurance, which is more expensive than Marketplace or federal sponsored plans. Private plans also don’t offer any tax subsidies.

Health Risks Unique to Deportees

Immigrants probably came to the U.S. to get better access to basic services like health care. Sending them back to their birth countries only causes harm to their health. Not only do they have to make do with inferior health care but they also suffer emotionally and physically due to the mental and physical stress associated with going through deportation.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has policies in place that ensure immigrants are provided “safe, secure, and humane confinement” in cases of detention. But some controversy still surrounds the topic because of reported deaths of detainees.

Immigration facilities have been investigated and repeatedly found lacking the standards provided by the policies. Unfortunately, many centers are privately-run facilities that are not kept to the same standards which cause further concern for immigrants’ health.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.