How does health reform affect you if you're an immigrant? Must you buy health insurance? Can you get financial help from the U.S. government to help pay for insurance? Could you benefit from expanded Medicaid? It depends on your situation.
For Legal Immigrants
If you are a naturalized citizen or legally immigrated to the U.S., the law applies to you. This means you must buy health insurance or pay a penalty, unless you are exempt.
If your employer offers health insurance, one of its health plans is likely the most affordable and complete for you.
If your employer doesn't offer insurance or if you are self-employed, starting Oct. 1, 2013, you can buy insurance through your state's online Marketplace, also called an Exchange. You can also contact the Marketplace by phone or in person.
In the online Marketplace, when you enter your income, age, and family size, you will see if you can get any financial aid for health insurance. You may be able to get a subsidy. That's a type of financial help from the U.S. government that helps lower your premiums -- your monthly insurance costs. You may also find that you are eligible to apply for Medicaid.
In addition to your state's Marketplace, you can also enroll in a health plan from an insurance broker. If you do that, you won't get financial help from the government.
If you don't buy insurance for 2014, you may have to pay a penalty when you file taxes in 2015. The penalty is $95 for each adult and $47.50 for each child. You won't have to pay more than $285 per family, or 1% of your income, whichever is more. The penalties will cost you a lot more in 2015 and 2016.
You may be eligible to apply for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) if you don't make much money per year. These are health insurance programs for low-income people and their families. There is a 5-year-or-more waiting period for most immigrants legally in the U.S. Your state may waive this waiting period for your children or if you are pregnant. About half the states do that.
For Illegal Immigrants
If you are not legally in the U.S., the law requiring people to buy insurance does not apply to you. You can't buy insurance through your state's Marketplace. But you can buy it through an insurance broker or directly through an insurance company. You won't be fined if you do not buy insurance.
If you are not legally in the U.S., you are still eligible for emergency care.