Health Insurance for Immigrants



Medical Insurance for Non-U.S. Citizens

A large number of immigrants in America are uninsured, and for various reasons. Relocating to the States may sound promising, but there are many who are unprepared for our nation’s health care system. As with other life matters, arriving with money and security makes the process much more simple. Low-income immigrants will not have as easy a time obtaining health coverage, and the argument is still heated over allowing non-citizens access to public health coverage. Many people were hoping the issue would be addressed by health reform, but Medicaid and Medicare for non-citizens didn’t make the cut.

About 42 – 51 percent of all immigrants in the U.S. do not have a health insurance policy, due to financial, employment, and legal factors. A substantial amount of immigrants work for employers that do not offer health benefits, and those who cannot afford a private plan are unable to access Medicaid according to federal law. While this may not change for years to come, this is the current state of health insurance availability for non-citizens.

 

Regulations and Options

There are a number of limitations on coverage for immigrants, though a few options exist for certain circumstances and individuals. Unfortunately for low-income families and individuals, private health insurance is the best bet for non-citizens. Private health plans typically require proof of residency, which is not a green card, license, or Social Security number. Residency can be proven to a health insurer with one of several residential upkeep bills for a six month consecutive period of time. Very simple.

Refer to this article to view examples of the standard underwriting guidelines for proof of residency.

As we are clearly supporters and sellers of private health insurance, we recommend this option if you are able to afford it. To compare plans for you and your family and find out how much coverage will cost, get a quick quote.

 

Medicaid and CHIP

If post-quote you have realized the private option is too costly for you, there are some other options. Though Medicaid does not offer coverage to some immigrants, it will provide coverage to qualified immigrants. If you are a qualified immigrant eligible for federal public benefits, this means you meet one of the following criteria.

  • Legal permanent resident
  • Conditional permanent resident
  • Asylee
  • Refugee
  • Persons paroled into the United States for a minimum of one year
  • Persons granted withholding of deportation
  • Persons granted conditional entry
  • Cuban or Haitian entrants
  • Amerasian immigrants
  • A victim of human trafficking for has filed for, or has been awarded a T-visa under INA
  • Persons who have been battered or subject to extreme cruelty by a spouse or parent who is a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident, who have VAWA self-petitions or petitions for suspension of deportation or cancellation of removal pending or approved and their undocumented immigrant children listed as dependents in their VAWA self-petition application.
  • Parents of children who have been battered or subject to extreme cruelty by the other U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident, who have VAWA self-petitions or petitions for suspension of deportation or cancellation of removal pending or approved and their undocumented immigrant children listed as dependents in their VAWA self-petition application.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, as of March 2011, Medicaid and CHIP programs are available to lawful immigrant children and pregnant women who meet the Medicaid state residency requirement. States can also provide prenatal care to immigrant women who would otherwise be ineligible for Medicaid and/or CHIP, regardless of immigration status.

Due to the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), there is a ban on receiving public benefits for the first five years of residency for many immigrants. Health coverage for immigrants during the five year ban is limited to pregnant women and children in most states, however, 14 states and the District of Columbia offer state-only funded coverage to immigrants other than pregnant women and children.

State-only funded health benefits are restricted to ages, immigration status, disability, and other requirements. For example, the state of Washington offers Medicaid to qualified immigrants who are age 65 or older and/or disabled, and receiving state-only cash assistance. Additionally, 16 states and the District of Columbia provide some health coverage to select groups of non-qualified immigrants through state-only funding. Again, coverage is limited based upon age, immigration status, and disability status.

Refer to the chart below to view different public benefits offered by various participating states.

 

Health Reform and Immigrants

States that participate in Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act will also expand the income level for lawful immigrants. Though the five year ban is still effective for all provisions of the ACA, qualified immigrants will also be eligible for subsidies to buy health insurance from an exchange if they do not qualify for Medicaid. Though you still must be in the qualified category, the ACA intends to help the population of uninsured low-income immigrants.

Other developments created by health reform could potentially assist immigrants, in states offering Medicaid to more individuals of varying incomes. There are new requirements to provide information in a culturally and linguistically fitting way from the ACA, which could also help immigrants obtain benefits such as TANF and SNAP. The improvements to technological advances to encourage a wider range of eligibility may also be able to help non-citizens in the future.