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Health Care Reform:

Health Insurance & Affordable Care Act

Immigrants: How the Insurance Mandate Affects You

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.

If you already have a health plan from your employer, another source, or use Medicaid or Medicare, you don't have to change it.

For Legal Immigrants

If you are a naturalized citizen or legally immigrated to the U.S., the health reform 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 that meets the law’s requirements, you won’t qualify for a tax credit to help lower the cost of insurance.  In most cases, your work-based coverage is likely to be your best choice.

If your employer doesn't offer insurance or if you are self-employed, 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 learn 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 lowers your premiums, which is how much you pay each month to have insurance. You may also find that you are eligible for help paying out-of-pocket costs when you go to the doctor. Some people with very low incomes may also qualify for Medicaid.

In addition to your state's Marketplace, you can also enroll in a health plan from an insurance broker. That person may be able to help you find a plan that qualifies for a subsidy.

If you didn'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 or 1% of your income, whichever is more. There’s also a penalty of $47.50 for each child in your family who goes uninsured. You won't have to pay more than $285 per family or 1% of your income, whichever is more. For not buying insurance in 2015, the penalties will be higher.  Individuals will pay either 2% of their income or $325.

You may be eligible to apply for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) if you don't make much money in a given 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.

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