The Affordable Care Act (ACA), more commonly known as Obamacare, reformed the healthcare system in the U.S. to provide affordable health insurance options to all American citizens. Although the law also made it mandatory for all citizens to take responsibility for their own healthcare by carrying an insurance policy (or facing penalties for failure to maintain health coverage), it also created policies and exchanges designed to deliver cost assistance and even access to free healthcare services for qualifying parties.
As a result, millions of Americans previously unable to afford health insurance suddenly had access to preventive, emergency, and other healthcare options that were formerly beyond reach due to inflated health insurance premiums and the rampant denial of coverage due to preexisting conditions. However, not all residents of the United States are natural citizens. Are new immigrants eligible for coverage under Obamacare?
In order to enroll in the health insurance marketplace, you must be a U.S. citizen, a U.S. national, or a lawfully present immigrant. Lawfully present immigrants include qualified non-citizens (green card holders, refugees, etc.), those with humanitarian statuses or circumstances, those with valid non-immigrant Visas, and those that qualify for legal status conferred under other laws (Family Unity, LIFE Act, etc.).
If you’re not sure whether you hold lawfully present immigrant status, you can find out when you apply for Obamacare. Any information you provide to your state health exchange will be used only for the purposes of determining eligibility for coverage. Your information is protected and will not be used for law enforcement purposes of any kind, even if it turns out you are not a lawfully present immigrant.
If you are an undocumented immigrant then you are not eligible to gain health insurance coverage through the healthcare marketplace (including state-run exchanges). Those who are currently incarcerated are also ineligible. In order to prove eligibility to enroll in Obamacare, applicants must provide a minimum of two legal documents that establish legal status as a U.S. citizen, a U.S. national, or a lawfully present immigrant.
Keep in mind that certain applicants may still be eligible for benefits under Obamacare through state programs even without meeting requirements for citizenship status. For example, children may still qualify to receive CHIP through “presumptive eligibility” even if immigrant parents aren’t necessarily eligible for coverage under Obamacare.
It’s important to understand that health coverage is a two-edged blade. If you are a U.S. citizen, a U.S. national, or a lawfully present immigrant, you are not only eligible to enroll in Obamacare; you are also required by law to maintain appropriate health coverage.
All citizens (and other qualifying residents) are required under the ACA to maintain at least minimum essential coverage or face penalties for failure to do so. These penalties increase annually as a means of ensuring that all qualifying residents maintain proper health insurance coverage. As a lawfully present immigrant, this applies to you, as well.
Immigrants living in the U.S. that do not qualify for health coverage through the Obamacare marketplace may still have options to obtain health insurance coverage through private insurance providers.