Many immigrants have questions about how the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as Obamacare, affects them and their families. The answer is complex, but there is help out there to assist families understand how they can access health benefits.
The ACA requires lawfully present immigrants to buy health insurance coverage. The ACA helps such immigrants buy private health insurance on state exchanges or marketplaces. These marketplaces provide affordable insurance that cover pre-existing conditions and preventative care. Low-income applicants are eligible for tax credits and subsidies to help pay their monthly premiums.
Who are “lawfully present immigrants”?
For the purposes of the Affordable Care Act, this group includes:
• lawful permanent residents
• individuals who filed an I-485 and have an approved I-130
• refugees and individuals granted asylum or withholding of removal
• individuals who apply for asylum and whose application has been pending more than 180 days
• individuals granted Temporary Protected Status, and VAWA or U visa protection
• individuals granted deferred action, except DACA grantees are not considered “lawfully present” for the purposes of the ACA
A complete list of individuals considered lawfully present can be found here.
What about undocumented immigrants?
Undocumented immigrants (including individuals granted DACA deferred action) are not required to buy health insurance. They also are not allowed to buy health insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace. (They can purchase private insurance through an employer or off the marketplace.)
Undocumented immigrants can still be treated at community health centers and in emergency rooms for free or at low cost. For pregnant women, most states cover the cost of pre-natal care for all, regardless of immigration status. Also, labor and delivery costs are covered by the federal government through “Emergency Medicaid.”
“Mixed Status” Families
Note that U.S. citizens and lawfully present immigrants who have undocumented family members can still apply for Medicaid and for health insurance through the ACA’s marketplace. The applications ask for the immigration status only of family members who are actually applying for benefits. Enrollment information is not shared with immigration agencies for the purpose of enforcement.
Individuals who became a lawful permanent residents within the last five years are not eligible for Medicaid and are eligible to apply for insurance through the ACA marketplace. However, the ACA’s website sometimes erroneously refuses to allow recent LPRs to register. Luckily, help is available (see “Need Help Applying?” below).
Need More Information?
The ACA’s website has a page with additional information for immigrants here.
Need Help Applying?
Individuals and families can apply for health insurance on the federal website at healthcare.gov. Some states, such as Illinois, have set up their own websites to assist applicants (getcoveredillinois.gov). Applicants can also get free assistance from trained counselors. Find a counselor near you at here.
Immigration Attorneys, LLP focuses its practice in the area of immigration and nationality law. We represent clients in a wide variety of immigration case matters including family and employment-based work, deportation defense work, immigrant and non-immigrant visa work, consular processing overseas and naturalization matters.