Affordable Care: Options for immigrants

“How can I get medical insurance for my immigrant parent?” 

Glad to See Dad

Dear Glad to See Dad, 

First, if he wants insurance before January 1, 2014, your best bet is to find a health insurance agent in the state where he lives.  Some people are setting up plans that start December 1, 2013 because they escape health reform rules until they end on November 30, 2014; these plans may be cheaper than the January 1, 2014 plans.

Finding a health insurance agent may also be your best tactic for January 1 and forward.  At that point, the ways to help dad are set by his residency status and his earnings.

If he is a legal resident of the United States and does not have an employer health plan offered to him, then you can go to the health insurance exchange (or “marketplace”) to find a plan. The exchange provides plans for people who earn less than 400% of Federal Poverty.  Or, it will, when it starts working.

If your dad earns more than 400% of Federal Poverty, you can go “off exchange” to purchase a plan. Again, you would want to find a health insurance agent for help on this. (The rate you pay does not go up when you use an agent, so you might as well get the help.)

If Dad is not a legal resident, then all of your options are outside of the exchange.  States offer emergency room coverage for undocumented residents, through their Medicaid plans.  Most states require five years of residency before an adult immigrant is eligible to enroll in Medicaid.  There are also lots of other requirements for Medicaid: low income, few assets, etc.  You can check your state’s government website and contact your nearest human services office for more information.

Linda Riddell

About Linda Riddell

A published author and health policy analyst with 25 years’ experience, Linda Riddell's goal is to alleviate the widespread ailment of not knowing what your health plan can do for you.