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Health Coverage for Immigrant Youth a Moral Obligation

Rabbi Saperstein: "We were disappointed to learn of the administration's decision to change the definition of "lawfully present" for the purposes of eligibility under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to exclude these individuals from accessing the health care that they need and deserve."

Contact: Sean Thibault or Sarah Krinsky
202.387.2800 news@rac.org 

WASHINGTON, D.C., October 19, 2012 -- In response to the Obama administration's decision to exclude deferred action for childhood arrival candidates from benefits extended under the Affordable Care Act, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, today sent to Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius the following letter urging a revised policy that includes coverage for DACA candidates:

Dear Secretary Sebelius,

On behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism whose nearly 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, with membership of more than 1800 Reform rabbis, I am pleased to submit comments in response to the Department of Health and Human Services' proposed policy on health care access and coverage for individuals receiving relief through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). I write to express our concerns with this policy, and to urge the Administration to ensure these individuals are eligible for coverage.

The Reform Jewish Movement has been a long-standing supporter of the DREAM Act, and welcomed the President's executive order to grant temporary relief and issue permits to law-abiding individuals who came to the U.S. as children and continued to contribute to this country through military service or higher education. However, we were disappointed to learn of the administration's decision to change the definition of "lawfully present" for the purposes of eligibility under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to exclude these individuals from accessing the health care that they need and deserve.

Excluding DACA-eligible youth from coverage undercuts the spirit of the Dream Act, DACA and the ACA. The goals of DACA are that DREAM Act eligible students can live in and contribute to the U.S. without fear of deportation and work to provide for themselves and their families.  The ACA aims to reduce health disparities and to extend near-universal health care coverage, including to those who are most vulnerable. Prohibiting young adults from receiving core benefits including Medicaid or CHIP, participating in the newly created exchanges, or accessing necessary preventative services undermines both of these laudable aims.

As Reform Jews, we are commanded to love the stranger, for we were strangers in the land of Egypt (Deuteronomy 10:19), leading Jewish law to accord the "resident alien" the same social benefits granted to Jewish citizens. Inspired by this core principle today, the Reform Movement has long advocated for comprehensive immigration reform and the DREAM Act. We have also been at the forefront of the faith community's advocacy for health reform and universal health care. These goals are not mutually exclusive.

We are confident that you will take these pressing concerns seriously, and reconsider this misguided policy and instead extend full medical benefits offered under the ACA to DACA individuals.

Sincerely,
Rabbi David Saperstein
Director, Religious Action Center 



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