NJ Immigrant Advocates Call for Medicaid Expansion and DACA Eligibility to be Included in Build Back Better Package

Policies would address glaring racial inequities in health care access

Newark, NJ – June 18, 2021 – Today, as the nation prepares to commemorate Juneteenth and the abolition of slavery in the US, Health Care for America Now (HCAN) with a coalition of national organizations released an issue brief detailing the racially disparate health impact caused by lack of access to health care and call for more inclusive health care policies such as the closing of the Medicaid coverage gap. In response, NJ Citizen Action, NJ Consortium for Immigrant Children, and Make the Road NJ, are calling on  Congress and the Biden Administration to further address health inequities by expanding ACA eligibility to DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients in the Build Back Better reconciliation package.

One day after the Supreme Court resoundingly rejected GOP challenges to the ACA and upheld the landmark law, clearing the way for these expansions, Congress and the White House have an opportunity to reduce racial disparities that result in worse health outcomes and diminished economic security for Black and Brown people by prioritizing policies that make healthcare affordable and expands coverage. Chief among these policies are closing the Medicaid coverage gap in the 12 states that have not yet expanded Medicaid, and making DACA recipients eligible for coverage through Medicaid and the ACA Marketplace as well as Marketplace subsidies.

“Health equity is not a blue state or a red state issue,” said Laura Waddell, Health Care Organizer with NJ Citizen Action. “No matter where someone lives or what they look like, no one should be denied access to quality health care based on political grudges. Many other states, both Democratic and Republican led, have put the interests and needs of their constituents ahead of their own partisanship. Politicians in the remaining states should not be allowed to hold low-income people and people of color hostage to their own agenda. President Biden and Congress must intervene; there has never been a better time for more equitable and inclusive health care policies.  Greater insurance coverage leads to better health outcomes for all, especially disproportionately impacted communities.”

In New Jersey, based on enrollment data from late 2020 and early 2021, approximately 622,000 were enrolled due to Medicaid expansion and nearly 258,000 were enrolled thanks to ACA Marketplace coverage. The ACA significantly reduced racial health disparities in healthcare, but there is still more to do. In New Jersey 14.5% of Blacks and 49.5% of Latinos remain uninsured.

“The ACA made huge strides in improving access to health care for Black and Brown people, but the job isn’t finished as long as partisan opponents of the ACA can continue to block the implementation of Medicaid for millions and ACA Marketplace eligibility for immigrant residents like DACA recipients,” said Yeimi Hernandez, Youth Leader at Make the Road NJ.

Closing the Medicaid coverage gap in the 12 remaining states that have not expanded coverage on their own would significantly increase health equity in those states. An estimated 4 million low-income people could gain coverage if Medicaid were expanded to individuals in these states, including 2.2 million adults with incomes below the poverty line. Of this number, 28% are Black and another 28% are Latino. Similarly, allowing DACA recipients to enroll in Medicaid and ACA Marketplace plans with financial assistance options means hundreds of thousands of predominantly Latino young people will have access to health care. Senator Booker and Reps. Watson Coleman and Sires have already shown support for these expansions by joining a combined sign-on letter from the Black, Hispanic, and Asian Congressional Caucuses that includes these policies.

Sergio Crespo, Mental Health Advocate with the NJ Consortium for Immigrant Children and former DACA recipient commented, “I am a 23-year-old PhD student at Rutgers University. I am formerly undocumented and grew up without health insurance. As a child, I suffered from asthma and never had a primary pediatric doctor growing up, which made it difficult to develop a trusting relationship with a physician. This left me feeling as if I was not worth being taken care of.  Health care is a human right and we need more inclusionary health care policies in order to move the needle on health equity in this country, so why not start with DACA.”

The coalition is urging Members of the NJ Congressional delegation to support efforts to expand coverage and health equity nationwide as part of the upcoming “Build Back Better” reconciliation package. Federal intervention could increase equity and build on other improvements contained in the recent American Rescue Plan. The bill expanded premium tax credits, gave millions more people access to quality and affordable healthcare with lower premiums, extended health coverage for new moms, subsidized COBRA coverage for laid off and unemployed workers, and gave states the option to expand home- and community-based services. 

Increased federal subsidies have resulted in more than a third of New Jersey’s nearly 270,000 enrollees having a plan that costs $10 or less per month. In New Jersey, 9 in 10 enrollees receive premium tax credits to pay for coverage.  Although the rescue plan also increased funding for Medicaid expansion to uninsured, none of the dozen states took up the funding, leaving millions uninsured.


New Jersey Citizen Action is a statewide advocacy and social service organization that advocates for social, racial and economic justice for all while also meeting the pressing needs of low- and moderate-income New Jerseyans through education and direct service.