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A Reader Asks: Can Foreign Visitors Buy Health Insurance Exchange Plans?

Q. Does Obamacare offer coverage to visitors to the United States who plan to stay for up to six months?

A. Even if you’re visiting the United States for several months, you generally won’t be eligible to buy a health plan on the health insurance marketplace, say experts.

In addition to United States citizens, the exchanges are open to people who are “lawfully present” in the United States. If you’re here as a tourist or have a non-immigrant visa, you’ll likely satisfy that requirement, says Jenny Rejeske, a health policy analyst at the National Immigration Law Center.

But there’s also a residency requirement to buy coverage on a state marketplace. In general, “you have to be living in the state and intend to reside in the state,” or work there, says Rejeske. It’s unlikely that someone who’s in the United States temporarily would meet those tests, she says.

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communications organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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