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An immigrant is a person who moves permanently to another country. An immigrant is also defined by the United States government as a permanent resident alien. Although the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) broadly defines immigrants as any alien person who is in the U.S., immigrants who are in the country without proper documentation and permission are considered to be in the country unlawfully.

Under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, all legal immigrants to the U.S. are required to purchase health insurance in the same manner as naturalized or U.S. born citizens are required to do so. Immigrants who neglect to purchase health insurance can also face paying penalties for not doing so.

Health Insurance and Immigrants

Only lawfully admitted immigrants are eligible for coverage through the marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act.  The marketplace varies from state to state so it is important that you also check your state’s requirements. If you are an immigrant and you are unsure if you qualify for marketplace health insurance, you can click here to see the different types of qualifying immigration statuses.

Medicare and Immigrants

As an immigrant, if you are over age 65 you can also qualify for Medicare. But there are some rules. Medicare is made up of four parts:

  1. Part A covers hospitalization, nursing home care, some home health care, skilled nursing facility care and hospice care
  2. Part B covers some doctor visits, outpatient services, medical supplies, and preventive services
  3. Part C combines Part A and Part B and is available through private health insurance plans (also known as Medicare Advantage Plans)
  4. Part D covers drug prescriptions and is offered through private insurance companies.

To be eligible for “premium-free Part A” of Medicare you must prove a minimum amount of earnings from a job and also prove that you have contributed to payroll taxes. You need to have contributed to a specific amount of QC’s or Quarters of Coverage into your Social Security account.  The exact amount of QC’s depends on your specific circumstances. If you do not meet the QC minimum, you may have to pay a monthly premium for Part A. The monthly premium for Part A can be as much as $407 per month as of 2015.

If you do not qualify for premium-free Part A and do not wish to pay for it, you can just buy Part B. To pay for Part B coverage you need to have been living in the U.S. for a minimum of five years without a break. The Part B premium as of 2015 is $104.90 per month.

Medicaid and Immigrants

Although immigrants may qualify for Medicaid assistance, currently the five year (or more) waiting period before qualifying still stands. There are some states that allow Medicaid to be provided to pregnant women and children through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). However, not all states allow this. In states that do not allow this option, a five year waiting period for eligibility applies.


Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

Department of Homeland Security


National Immigration Law Center


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