How to get health insurance for green card holders

Eligibility for visitor insurance plans varies and it is important to understand which plans may provide coverage in different situations.

By Chirant Nataraj

Looking for medical insurance for green card holders? If yes, you have come to the right place. Health insurance for green card holders is no different than policies for US citizens or residents. However, US residents who are legal permanent immigrants (green card holders) are eligible for coverage through Obamacare.

The term “lawful permanent” immigrants includes:

  • Qualified noncitizen immigrant status with no waiting period
  • Persons with valid nonimmigrant visas
  • Persons with humanitarian status
  • People with legal status conferred by other laws

READ: What are the benefits of choosing a visitor insurance plan with a PPO network? (January 26, 2022)

How do green card holders get health insurance?

As a green card holder, you may fit one of the following four scenarios:

  1. You live permanently in the US
  2. You have green cards but live outside the US
  3. You came to the US on an immigrant visa and your green cards are pending
  4. You travel between your home countries and the US

Coverage for green card holders who are US permanent residents

If you hold a green card, you are considered a lawful permanent resident of the United States. In that case, you can apply for Obamacare. To enroll in domestic plans through the Marketplace, you must be a US citizen or lawfully present.

Now, if you are over 65, you can apply for the Medicare program usually after only 5 years of having a green card. The US federal and state Medicaid program can help you with premiums if you qualify and fall into the low-income category. You must be a US citizen to be eligible for Medicaid. If you are over the age of 65 and have not lived in the US for 5 years after getting your green card, you can apply for Obamacare.

RELATED: Things to Consider When Buying Travel Insurance for the US (June 4, 2022)

Green card holders who missed the health care enrollment period (usually beginning on November 1St every year and is open until January 15thth each year) or are waiting for their workers’ compensation benefits, can opt for temporary coverage from private insurance companies.

Coverage for green card holders who live outside the US

If you have a green card, live outside the US and plan to visit the country for short trips, you may want to consider getting visitor insurance. Visitor insurance plans give you temporary coverage during your short stay in the US. For example, you may plan to stay in the US for six months and return to your home country.

In such cases, visitor insurance plans that provide coverage outside the country of residence or immigrant plans may be good choices. Eligibility for visitor insurance plans varies and it is important to understand which plans may provide coverage in such situations.

READ: What does visitor insurance cover? (November 8, 2021)

You can find different affordable plans according to your travel and medical needs. Make sure you purchase adequate insurance coverage, including eligible medical expenses, repatriation and evacuation, and other travel-related benefits.

Coverage for Pending Green Card Holders and New Immigrants

If you do come to the US and apply for a green card and your green card status is pending, you are considered a visitor to the US. In such cases, you can purchase visitor health insurance plans that can cover you during this waiting period. The plans should be sufficient to cover medical expenses, hospitalization charges, medical evacuation, repatriation and others.

Once you get your green card, you can sign up for domestic plans from the insurance marketplace.

Individuals who are not US citizens or residents are not eligible to purchase health insurance through the Obamacare insurance marketplace. However, they can choose visitor health insurance plans from private insurance companies just like persons coming to the US as a visitor.

READ: Why is visitor health insurance recommended when traveling to the US? (October 7, 2021)

Do green card holders need insurance?

No, it is not mandatory for green card holders to purchase health insurance plans, but it is highly recommended as the cost of health care in the US is very high. A doctor’s consultation can cost you hundreds of dollars, while diagnostic tests, surgeries or hospitalizations can cost you much more and can usually be thousands of dollars.

Buying an insurance policy depends on the individual and the financial risk they want to take. You don’t need to buy insurance plans if you’re willing to pay out of pocket.

Obamacare or visitor plans?

It depends on your status in the US and the nature of your stay. In short, if you are a legal permanent resident or a new immigrant with a green card, you are eligible for Obamacare. You have the choice of purchasing Obamacare or Visitor plans (depending on plan eligibility).

However, the amount of coverage is different depending on what you choose. Preventative care, pre-existing conditions, and maternity are typically excluded from visitor plans, while they are included in Obamacare plans.

(Chiranth Nataraj is the founder of Visitor Guard. He has over two decades of experience in developing insurance and technology solutions.)

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