Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Sep 13, 2012

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The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued an amendment to an interim final regulation clarifying the benefits eligibility of undocumented immigrants who have been granted deferred action status through a program recently implemented by the Department of Homeland Security. The deferred action program prevents undocumented immigrants who meet certain criteria from being deported for a period of at least two years and makes them eligible for work permits.

The HHS amendment is significant as it clarifies the HHS Departments position on whether or not deferred action recipients qualify for certain government benefits as a function of their new status. The amendment states that deferred action recipients are not eligible for inclusion in the Preexisting Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP), which was set up when the Affordable Care Act was passed to cover uninsured individuals with preexisting conditions until January 1, 2014, when the Act’s provisions prohibiting the denial of coverage due to preexisting conditions goes into effect. In short, undocumented immigrants with deferred action status will not be able to seek health insurance coverage under the PCIP because, even though they are legally in the United States for the time being, they are not technically considered “lawfully present” for purposes of a number of benefits under the Affordable Care Act.

In addition to the PCIP, deferred action immigrants are also ineligible for affordable insurance exchanges and premium tax credits. In a similar move, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently sent a letter to state Medicaid directors indicating that deferred action immigrants are ineligible for Medicaid benefits and the Children’s Health Insurance Program under Section 214 of the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009.