A Reader Asks: As An Immigrant In The U.S. Illegally, Can I Buy Insurance?

June 13

Q. I am a self-employed resident in the country illegally and make as much or more money than many other legal residents or citizens of the United States. I have been told by some insurance companies that I have to be a U.S. citizen or legal resident to be able to get medical coverage. Why can’t I be eligible to get medical insurance just because of my status when I'm able to afford a good medical plan for myself?

A. Under the health law, immigrants who do not have legal permission to live in the country are prohibited from buying health insurance on the health insurance exchanges. They are also generally prohibited from coverage under the Medicaid or CHIP programs for low-income people.

However, there’s nothing to stop you from buying a plan on the private insurance market outside the exchanges. Coverage may be more expensive, says Angel Padilla, a health policy analyst at the National Immigration Law Center, because you won’t be eligible for premium tax credits that are available on the exchange to people with incomes up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level (currently $45,960 for an individual).

The silver lining, such as it is, is that immigrants here illegally aren’t subject to the health law requirement that they have health insurance. So if you don’t buy a plan, you won’t face a penalty for not having coverage.

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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