How to get health insurance for Green Card holders

Eligibility on the visitor insurance plans differs and it is important to understand which of the plans can provide coverage in different situations.

By Chiranth Nataraj

Are you looking for medical insurance for Green Card holders? If yes, you have come to the right spot. The health insurance for Green Card holders is not different from the policies for US citizens or residents. However, US residents who are lawfully permanent immigrants (Green Card holders) are eligible for coverage through Obamacare.

The term ‘lawfully permanent’ immigrants include:

  • Qualified non-citizen immigrant status without a waiting period
  • Individuals with valid non-immigrant visas
  • Individuals with Humanitarian statuses
  • People with legal status conferred by other laws

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

How do Green Card holders get health insurance?

As Green Card holders you may fit in one of the following four scenarios:

  1. You are permanently living in the US
  2. You have Green Cards but live outside the US
  3. You have come to the US on immigrant visa and your Green Cards are pending
  4. You shuttle between your home countries and the US

Coverage for Green Card holders who are permanent US residents

If you hold a Green Card, you are considered a lawfully permanent resident in the US. In this case, you can apply for Obamacare. To enroll for domestic plans through the Marketplace, you must be a US citizen or be lawfully present.

Now, if you are above 65, you can apply for the Medicare program typically only after 5 years of having a Green Card.  The US federal and state Medicaid program can help you with premiums if you are eligible and fall under the low-income category. You need to be a US citizen to be able to get Medicaid. If you are above the age of 65 years and have not lived in the US for 5 years after receiving your Green Card, you can apply for Obamacare.

RELATED: Things to keep in mind when buying travel insurance for US (June 4, 2022)

Green Card holders who have missed the healthcare enrollment period (typically starts on November 1st every year and is open until January 15th every year) or are waiting on their employee benefits may opt for temporary coverage from private insurance companies.

Coverage for Green Card holders who live outside the US

If you hold a Green Card, live outside the US, and plan to visit the country for short trips, you can consider 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 go back to your home country.

In such cases, visitor insurance plans that provide coverage outside the country of residence or the immigrant plans can be a good choice. Eligibility on the visitor insurance plans differs and it is important to understand which of the plans can provide coverage in such situations.

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

You can find various affordable plans as per your travel and medical needs. Ensure you buy 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 in the US. In such cases, you can purchase visitor insurance health insurance plans that can cover you during this waiting period.  The plans should be adequate to cover medical expenses, hospitalization fees, medical evacuation, repatriation, and more.

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 buy health insurance from the insurance marketplace, Obamacare. However, they can choose visitor health insurance plans from private insurance companies just like the individuals who come to the US as a visitor.

READ: Why is visitor health insurance recommended for travel to USA? (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 because the cost of healthcare in the US is very high. A consultation with a doctor can make you pay hundreds of dollars, whereas diagnostic tests, surgeries, or hospitalizations can cost you much more and typically can be thousands of dollars.

Buying an insurance policy is up to the individual and the financial risk they want to take. You do not have to purchase insurance plans if you are willing to pay from your pocket.

Obamacare or visitor plans?

It depends on your status in the US and the nature of your stay. In a nutshell, if you are a lawfully permanent resident or a new immigrant on a Green Card, you become eligible for Obamacare.  You do have the choice of buying either Obamacare or visitor plans (depending on the eligibility of the plans).

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

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

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