A view of the the Statue of Liberty. (Timothy Clary/AFP/Getty Images)
A view of the the Statue of Liberty. (Timothy Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: For people buying on the individual market who want health insurance starting Jan. 1, the deadline to sign up is Monday, Dec. 23. State of Health is running one post a day with questions and answers on both the Affordable Care Act and Covered California until that deadline. This installment comes from KQED’s Obamacare Guide, written specifically for Californians.

The headline for immigrants is that if you are “lawfully present” (the legal term of art), you are eligible for the benefits — and responsibilities — of the Affordable Care Act. This means you may qualify for subsidies to purchase insurance, but it also means you may have to pay a penalty if you do not carry health insurance. While naturalized citizens and green card holders may be aware of how Obamacare affects them, for other immigrants, access to these kinds of benefits is new. Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for any benefits of the ACA. They do not have to pay a penalty if they do not carry health insurance.

I Am in the U.S. Legally, But I Do Not Have a Green Card. I Am Here under a Different Kind of Visa. What Does the Health Law Mean to Me?

U.S. law includes a wide variety of ways in which immigrants can be lawfully present, even if they are not green card holders.

The Affordable Care Act provides benefits to immigrants lawfully present under many different kinds of immigration status. You can check this list from the federal government to see if you qualify.

If your immigration status is one of those that makes you eligible for ACA benefits, here’s what you need to know:

Depending on your income and the number of people in your family, you may be eligible for subsidies to help you pay for insurance. If you earn less than 400 percent of poverty (about $46,000 for an individual or $94,000 for a family of four), you likely qualify for a sliding scale subsidy.

Covered California has a cost calculator so you can estimate how much you might have to pay for health insurance. The cost calculator will also indicate if you are eligible for Medi-Cal.

Even if you make too much money to qualify for a subsidy, you can still purchase health insurance on the Covered California marketplace.

I Am Lawfully Present and Want My Parents to Immigrate. Are They Eligible for Any Benefits?

If your parents are lawfully present, they are eligible to buy insurance on the Covered California marketplace. They may also be eligible for subsidies, depending on their income.

We Are a Mixed-Status Family. How Do We Handle Our Application?

A mixed-status family is a household of individuals present in the United States under different immigration or citizenship statuses. While undocumented immigrants are not eligible for benefits under the health law, lawfully present members of a mixed-status family likely are eligible for benefits. Please consult this document from the National Immigration Law Center.

Obamacare FAQ: Do Immigrants Qualify? 18 December,2013Lisa Aliferis

  • Curious

    “Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for any benefits of the ACA. They do not have to pay a penalty if they do not carry health insurance.”

    And they will continue to use ERs as their healthcare provider by the tens of millions as they always have.


Lisa Aliferis

Lisa Aliferis is the founding editor of KQED’s State of Health blog. Since 2011, she’s been writing and editing stories for the site. Before taking up blogging, she toiled for many years (more than we can count) producing health stories for television, including Dateline NBC and San Francisco’s CBS affiliate, KPIX-TV. She also wrote up a handy guide to the Affordable Care Act, especially for Californians. Her work has been honored for many awards. Most recently she was a finalist for “Best Topical Reporting” from the Online News Association. You can follow her on Twitter: @laliferis

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