Exploring the Choices: Healthcare for Migrants

In today’s society immigration health care is a major cause for concern. Low-income immigrants lack health insurance. This is due to inadequacy in their access to public insurance like Medicaid or Children’s Health insurance program as well as private job-based health insurance.  Immigrants are often associated with jobs in low insurance coverage sectors like agriculture, food service, and construction, meaning they are less likely to be offered insurance. Healthcare for migrants is a neglected segment that should be addressed.

Inability to obtain insurance gives immigrants less access to healthcare services. Without insurance, people often avoid visiting a doctor or even emergency rooms. Immigrants also have problems finding a healthcare provider who can communicate in their language. Moreover, health-related visits may lead to medical deportations. Therefore, healthcare for migrants can be tough.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has made several changes to the health insurance system for health care for migrants over the last few years. Even so, recent immigrants find it very confusing as to which health insurance option is available to them. Let’s take a look at what is actually available.


Immigrants present lawfully:

The ACA does not require you to be a US citizen to avail its benefits. Regardless of how long a person has been in the US, if they have been here legally, he or she is eligible for subsidies that cover the expenses generated by medical visits. This is applicable even if they don’t have an employer health insurance.


New citizens – special enrollment period:

When you become a US citizen or gain a lawfully present status, you are entitled to the special enrollment period outlined by the state. You will have 60 days from the time you gain your status to enroll in a plan through the exchange and also get subsidies if you are eligible.


Subsidies for recent immigrants:

Low-income immigrants who are not eligible for Medicaid due to their immigration status are qualified to enroll in plans through the market with full subsidies. In most states, if an immigrant has lived in the US for less than 5 years they may not be eligible for Medicaid. Due to regulation, there is still a huge healthcare coverage gap.


Exchange coverage for 65+ age recent immigrants:

After the age of 65, most Americans are eligible for Medicare program and don’t require individual market coverage. But recent immigrants are not eligible until they have lawfully lived in the US for 5 years. Before 2014, individual market health insurance was not generally available to anyone over 64 years of age. Since ACA, policies in the individual market are available on a guaranteed issue basis, regardless of age. If the plan is purchased in the market, just like for younger enrollees, subsidies are based on income.


Undocumented immigrants:

Immigration status plays a role in the accessibility to marketplace insurance. The ACA does not provide benefits to non-lawfully present immigrants. They are also not eligible for Medicaid under federal regulations. Some obtain coverage through student health plans, employer-sponsored coverage, and individual plans purchased off-exchange. Regardless of their ability to pay, uninsured immigrants have access to screening and stabilization services in emergency rooms of Medicare participating hospitals. In such cases, insurance and immigration status are not regarded.


Other Options – Healthcare for Migrants

In cases where healthcare is needed but no coverage exists, patients have the option to pay out of pocket or look for affordable services. There are very few places that specialize in immigrant healthcare and Allista is one of them. They take you through every step of your or your family’s treatment plan, guaranteeing proper practices are put in place.  Allista offers truly affordable healthcare for migrants with experts in various specialties ensuring you get the best possible care.


If you need more information take a look at our Medical Repatriation post.

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