Staying Healthy: What Immigrants to the US Need to Know About Health Care

America’s health care system can seem incredibly complicated for even the well-informed United States citizen, so it isn’t surprising at all that many immigrant find the nation’s gigantic health care bureaucracy unwieldy to the say the least. The Affordable Care Act passed in 2010 has added some new benefits that can go a long way toward helping out an American immigrant and his or her family, but of course there is a laundry list of new rules and options to go along with that. The following is a brief guide to untangling that complicated web and help elucidate the myriad rules on eligibility for benefits under the new health care law.

Undocumented Immigrants
The United States Congress made it clear when passing the Affordable Care Act that the newly established Health Care Marketplace which offers inexpensive insurance plans, tax credits on premiums and other savings would not be available for immigrants who are not lawfully present in the country. These undocumented immigrants will receive healthcare in emergency situations if they are not covered by privately-bought insurance plans.

Lawfully Present Immigrants
Lawfully present immigrants, however, are eligible to participate in the Health Care Marketplace. The legal phrase “lawfully present” refers to immigrants who either have valid non-immigrant visas, qualified non-citizen status, humanitarian statuses—such as political refuges—or legal status earned by other laws like the LIFE Act Family Union.

Marketplace Savings
If you are a lawfully present immigrant, you will be able to apply for additional savings on the plans offered in the Marketplace if you earn 4x the annual income of the federal poverty level. These savings can come in the form of tax credits. If your annual household income is below the federal poverty level—and you are not eligible for Medicaid in your state—you’ll likely be able to receive additional savings on Marketplace health insurance plans.

Medicaid and CHIP
Medicaid and CHIP eligibility is based on your state’s own rules based on residency and income. The Affordable Care Act allowed every state to expand eligibility, but many chose to forgo that expansion. Additionally, most immigrants must sit through a five year waiting period after earning their status as green card holders before applying for Medicaid and/or CHIP. Many immigrants have trouble even getting to this point—if you’re experiencing difficulties securing or renewing your green card, consider consulting an immigration lawyer, like one from the Law Offices of Joshua L. Goldstein, P.C., to help you. Most immigrants face some difficult obstacles and legal complications when it comes to establishing their status and, consequently, the benefits they are qualified for. Seeking legal counsel is a good way to make sure you receive all privileges and benefits you’re qualified for.

Health insurance is very important to have as no one can be sure when a serious illness or injury may befall them. If you are eligible to participate in the Marketplace, Medicaid, or CHIP, then it would be extremely prudent to apply. Information disclosed through the application is forbidden to be used for immigration enforcement.

Getting by in America as an immigrant can be tough enough without all the red tape that can potentially be encountered when determining what healthcare one has access to. Your health, however, should be a top priority—knowing about the options available to you is a great first step towards making sure you and your family stay covered and healthy.


*Our content is not intended to provide medical advice or diagnosis of individual problems or circumstances, nor should it be implied that we are a substitute for professional medical advice. Users / readers are always advised to consult their Healthcare Professional prior to starting any new remedy, therapy or treatment. Your Wellness Group accepts no liability in the event you, a user of n-gage and a reader of this article, suffers a loss as a result of reliance upon or inappropriate application of the information.

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