How to get US health insurance as an immigrant

22 Mar 2022 - Category: Blog /
us insurance

If you have just moved to the United States, getting a good deal on your health insurance should be one of your top priorities. Without health insurance, healthcare in the United States can be an expensive and potentially dangerous ordeal. So it is important to know where to look and what kind of health insurance you are entitled to.

In this blog, we’ll be exploring a number of topics relating to US health insurance for immigrants including:

  • Healthcare in the United States
  • Why you want Healthcare as an immigrant
  • Are you eligible for healthcare?
  • Publicly funded insurance programs
  • Private insurance programs
  • How Small World can help

Healthcare in the United States

Unlike most developed countries, the United States does not have a universal healthcare program. Instead, the healthcare system in the US is composed of a variety of different organizations including insurance companies, hospitals, healthcare providers and independent providers. In general these hospitals and health care facilities are owned by private sector businesses.

Healthcare coverage is made up of a combination of private health insurance and public health coverage systems such as Medicare and Medicaid. The majority of people that use the healthcare system in the U.S. do so via a combination of private and public means.

For a long time healthcare has been a hotspot for debate and conflict in the United States. Over 27 million people living in the United States lack health insurance coverage. A study conducted by Physicians for a National Health Program found that nearly 45,000 annual deaths occur due to a lack of patient health insurance.

In 2010, the Affordable Care Act was introduced, resulting in major changes in health insurance in the US. The three aims of the Act were to improve the individual experience of care, improving overall health, and reduce the per capita costs of healthcare. It is a great point of debate whether the act was effective. One of the positive elements of the Act was that it allowed some immigrants to receive insurance at a discounted rate.

To learn more about health coverage for immigrants in the United states and if you have any further questions about healthcare, visit the official website

Why do you want Healthcare as an immigrant?

If you get sick or hurt in the United States, having health insurance is the only way you can avoid a lengthy hospital bill.

Health insurance is a contract between you and the insurance company. When you buy a health insurance plan, the insurance company agrees to pay some of your medical costs. Standard health insurance plans help to cover the cost of emergency room visits, medicine and regular check-ups.

If you want you and your family healthy and able to go to work or to school, good healthcare is a must. The Affordable Care Act requires most U.S. citizens and lawfully present immigrants to have a minimum level of healthcare coverage. However, there is no penalty if you don’t have health insurance.

As you would have probably guessed, research has found that uninsured individuals in the United States are far more likely to suffer poor health than insured individuals. So how can you get health insurance and ensure that healthcare isn’t a drain on your wallet?

Are you eligible for healthcare?

If you are a lawfully present immigrant in the US you are eligible for health insurance coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace. The marketplace is a service run by the federal government that enables people to shop for and enroll in a variety of health insurance.

What does it mean to be a “Lawfully Present Immigrant?”

  • “Qualified non-citizen” immigration status without a waiting period
  • Humanitarian statuses or circumstances (including Temporary Protected Status, Special Juvenile Status, asylum applicants, Convention Against Torture, victims of trafficking)
  • Valid non-immigrant visas
  • Legal status conferred by other laws (temporary resident status, LIFE Act, Family Unity individuals)

Through the marketplace you will hopefully be able to find health insurance that is both affordable and suits your personal circumstances. The Affordable Care Act established that those with limited income may qualify for subsidies to make health insurance more affordable.

Equally, depending on your state you may qualify for limited assistance via Medicard if you don’t have eligible immigration status. Undocumented immigrants are ineligible for Medicaid or Marketplace coverage.

Publicly funded insurance programs

If you do not qualify as a lawfully present immigrant and you don’t meet your state’s income eligibility rules, you will most likely still be eligible for government-funded programs such as Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

To receive Medicaid and CHIP coverage, most qualified non-citizens have a 5-year waiting period. “This means they must wait 5 years after receiving "qualified" immigration status before they can get Medicaid and CHIP coverage. There are exceptions. For example, refugees, asylees, or LPRs who used to be refugees or asylees don’t have to wait 5 years.”(HealthCare.Gov)

  • Medicaid

Medicaid is a state and federal program that provides health insurance for low-income individuals. The type and quality of coverage will depend on where you live. In general, Medicaid will cover services like inpatient and outpatient hospital service, x-ray services and physician services.

  • CHIP

If you are not eligible for Medicaid because your income is too high, you can still receive low-cost coverage for your children via CHIP. Similar to Medicaid, eligibility and coverage will depend on the state you live in. However, every state offers basic CHIP benefits like cover for routine check-ups, prescriptions, emergency services and immunizations.

To find out whether you qualify, fill out a Marketplace application.

Private insurance programs

The alternative to publicly funded insurance is private insurance programs. Private insurance is any form of coverage that is offered by a company rather than the government. You may receive private insurance plans from your employer.

Like with publicly funded programs you may be eligible for subsidies that make some private coverage plans cheaper. There are also a number of state-approved private health insurance plans that can be relied on to provide relatively affordable coverage.

Head over to the Marketplace to find a private health insurance coverage that suits you and your family’s circumstances. You can find private plans outside the marketplace however all private insurance programs on the marketplace are required to cover the essential health services like emergency services, prescription drugs, mental health services and hospitalization.

How Small World can help

Once you have received your health coverage and you are settled in your home in the US you may want to send money to family and friends. This is where Small World can help. Small World is an international money transfer service helping millions make secure and successful transfers all year round.

We offer a number of money transfer services including bank deposit, cash pickup, mobile top-up, mobile wallet, home delivery and cash card reload. So if you need to support your loved ones and send money, Small World is here for you!

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