If you’ve immigrated to the United States outside of proper legal channels or you’ve continued to live and work in the country beyond what your visa allows while you attempt to find a legal means of remaining, then you are probably aware of the fact that certain services available to citizens and legal visitors are not necessarily available to you. But all people should have the right to proper medical care, even those whose legal status is in question. Unfortunately, it is not easy to obtain affordable health insurance in the U.S. as an illegal immigrant. There are options available, but you’ll have to do some research to discover the plan that will work for you. Here are some things to consider.
Let’s begin with government sponsored healthcare options such as Obamacare, or the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which is offered through health insurance exchanges. This type of coverage is not available for undocumented immigrants to the United States. Not only are you exempt from receiving any tax credits associated with government health care options, but you are not eligible to purchase such insurance. Medicare and Medicaid are also out of the question for undocumented immigrants. Your children, however, may qualify for such coverage if they are natural citizens (i.e. born in the U.S.) or they meet other criteria. However, you are still eligible to receive emergency medical care under federal law. You simply won’t be allowed to purchase government sponsored or regulated insurance policies (ACA/Obamacare plans).
Of course, some states offer healthcare services for low-income families, regardless of their immigration status. California, for example, has Medi-Cal, a program that provides services like emergency care, long-term care, and pregnancy care for any state residents that meet income requirements. And many states have federally-funded health centers and clinics that provide a variety of healthcare services at a low cost, on a sliding fee scale, or even for free. But access to such services depends largely on the state you live in, the income you earn, and your medical needs.
That said, you can get insurance through private insurance companies, and there are a number of ways to go about it. Because it can be difficult for illegal immigrants to find gainful employment (due to a lack of a Social Security number), you might not have the means to pay for health insurance out of pocket – it can be extremely expensive. And while there are certainly more affordable options, they often do little to alleviate the costs associated with medical care due to high deductibles, limited coverage, and massive co-pays for services.
However, illegal immigrants who find employment opportunities that offer health benefits are eligible to sign up for these policies. And those who attend colleges and universities can take advantage of campus health insurance coverage (which is often required as part of the tuition and fees). Children of illegal immigrants, particularly those born in the U.S. or those brought into the country as children, have more opportunities than adults who are undocumented immigrants. But if you have the cash on hand to pay for private health insurance, it may be your best option.
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