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Health Insurance Coverage for Immigrants


A large portion of the immigrant population in the United States do not have health insurance. Approximately 42%-51% of non-citizens do not have health insurance coverage. Thus, obtaining a health insurance policy can be difficult for an immigrant, especially considering the factor that most immigrants do not work at jobs that offer health insurance packages. However, there are a few health insurance options that are available to immigrants.

Health Insurance Options For Immigrants

There are a few health care options for people who come to live in the United States. The following will provide some information about these options including benefits, drawbacks and restrictions.

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Medicaid

Though Medicaid works to bring health insurance to low income people, and many uninsured immigrants are low income, it can be difficult for immigrants to qualify for Medicaid in some cases. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) that Congress passed in 1996 restricts immigrants from receiving public benefits such as Medicaid. Under PRWORA, many legal immigrants cannot receive public benefits for the first five years of their residence. Even after the first five year time period, immigrants may be ineligible for Medicaid because their sponsor’s income can be calculated into their own, thus making then ineligible. Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for Medicaid.

State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)

SCHIP offers health insurance options to children living in low income families. Such as the case with Medicaid, SCHIP benefits can be restricted concerning immigrants because of PROWRA. Immigrants are usually ineligible for SCHIP for the first five years of residence, and may continue to be ineligible for an extended period of time after that, due to economic qualifications. Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for SCHIP.

Private Health Insurance

Legal immigrants may elect to purchase private health insurance policies, but many lower income immigrants will find it difficult to afford such policies. Higher income immigrants may find private health insurance to be an appropriate option if their employer does not offer health insurance benefits.

It is important for all US residents, whether they were born in the United States or immigrated, to have access to health care, and the means to pay for it. In a country where medical costs are rising at an alarming rate, a solid health insurance plan can help to greatly reduce the burden of these costs.

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