Health insurance is one of those things that we love and hate. Depending on your immigration status, many immigrants can sign up for health insurance. That´s because you don´t have to be a citizen to be eligible. But not all immigrants have a right to register for health insurance coverage, sadly.
It is a complete utter pain to pay for health insurance each month. But when you need it, you are so freaking thankful you have it.
To best protect yourself and your family, take some time to understand why health insurance is important, whether you qualify to get it based on your status, and if you do, how to sign up.
Health Insurance Is A Smart Investment
I´m not going to lie. We certainly do not enjoy having to pay hundreds of dollars every month for health insurance, to say the least. It sucks seeing your money disappear out of each paycheck. Especially if you are healthy and lucky enough to only need insurance in case something terrible happens to you.
I had always heard about health insurance as being something that you just have to do. I knew it is something that one likes but for some reason a lot of people make it a priority to have. Feeling invincible, I though nothing would ever happen to me or my family.
But make no mistake: getting health insurance is a very smart financial investment. That is because you really never know what could happen. And when something does happen, without health insurance you can get thrown into a serious mountain of debt from medical bills.
Last week, we could not have been more grateful that we are lucky enough to have health insurance. My husband broke his ankle playing soccer. At first we thought it was a really bad sprain. But after going to urgent care, and then a specialist, we learned he had a terrible fracture and dislodged bone. The doctors told us he had to have emergency surgery and get metal screws and a plate put in. The surgery was going to cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Although we did end up having to pay quite a bit of money for our deductible and co-pays, the costs were nothing compared to if we had to pay for everything out of pocket. The medical fees set us back financially. However, we will be able to find a way to recover with time. If we didn´t have insurance, I don´t know how we would ever recover.
If You´re An Immigrant, Find Out if You Can Get Health Insurance
Immigrants who have some form of legal status are eligible to sign up for health insurance in the marketplace. According to the government´s health care website, healthcare.gov, there are a wide range of types of immigration statuses that qualify for health care under the current system.
People who are lawful permanent residents, or green card holders, can get coverage. There are also many other categories of immigrant statuses people can have to qualify. For example, refugees and asylees can get health insurance. People with visas that have not expired, such as student visas, work-related visas, like an H-1B, and diplomatic visas, can all also get insurance. Some individuals who do not have a lawful status, but instead a temporary reprieve from deportation, such as Temporary Protected Status (TPS), withholding of removal, or protection under the Convention against Torture, can get coverage. And individuals who are applying for asylum and have gotten employment authorization, or the right to work, while their asylum cases are pending can also get coverage during that time.
Very unfortunately, undocumented immigrants who do not have any form of immigration legal status are not eligible to get health insurance under the current system. For example, people who crossed the border without inspection and never applied for status are not able to access the marketplace. Likewise, immigrants who came lawfully on a visa, but then stayed after that visa expired and never got another status aren´t eligible. Another group of immigrants who sadly cannot get coverage are individuals with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), or ¨Dreamers¨.
Despite not being able to get coverage themselves, undocumented immigrants can apply for coverage for family members who are U.S. citizens or have a lawful immigration status. According to the government site healthcare.gov, the government cannot require you to provide information about whether or not you have status when you are applying for a family member to have coverage. And the government cannot deny your family member coverage because you or another family member do not give information on status.
If You Are Eligible for Health Insurance, Sign Up
You can apply for health care coverage during the open enrollment period, which is each year in the Fall. Some states use the healthcare.gov marketplace and other states have their own health care marketplace. Check your state´s system here.
If it is outside the open enrollment period, you can sometimes still apply if you have a qualifying reason or if you have Medicaid or CHIP benefits. Here is a screening tool to see if you can get coverage now, outside the enrollment period.
To show that you have one of the immigration statuses needed to get coverage, you will need to have documents that prove it. There are several kinds of immigration documents that can be used to show proof of your immigration status.
Not only is health insurance a smart investment, but there are also tax implications. Individuals who can afford to get health insurance and do not can have a tax penalty.
If you are fortunate to have an immigration status that has health care coverage, getting health insurance is a smart investment strategy. Insurance can save you from going into severe debt if a medical emergency comes up. Find out if you have a status that qualifies. If you do, sign up.