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Obtaining health insurance in the United States of America

 health insurance

health insurance

 Going to the doctor or hospital can cost a lot of money in the United States.  This is why it is important to have health insurance.  Learn what health insurance is, how to get health insurance, different types of government programs (Medicaid, Medicare, CHIP, WIC), health insurance in your workplace, Paying for Your Own Insurance, Affordable Care Act, and college student insurance  .

 What is health insurance?

 Health insurance, or medical insurance, is a contract between you and a health insurance company that requires the health insurance company to pay some or all of your health care costs in exchange for a monthly payment you make to them.  The monthly cost of insurance is called the premium.

 Healthcare for immigrants isn't much different from healthcare for native-born Americans, but it can be confusing.

 The simplest way to explain it is that when you have insurance and get medical expenses, the insurance company helps pay the expenses.

 A medical emergency or surgery can cost several thousand dollars.  It is better to pay a premium each month than to suddenly get a huge bill from the hospital.

 In general, health insurance for immigrants and refugees is the same as health insurance for native-born Americans.  Differences in health insurance depend on your age, employment, any health problems you currently have, how much you can pay for the monthly premium, and whether you get it from your employer or get it yourself.

 How can I get health insurance?

 In the United States, you can:

  •  Obtaining coverage through government (public health) insurance programs, or

  •  Obtaining insurance through your business with help from your employer, or

  •  Buy your own insurance.

 To have coverage is the same as insurance.  Both mean that you are protected from having to pay large medical bills.

 Government health insurance programs

 Are you eligible?

 Being qualified for something means that you can have something or you have the capacity for something.  The government will decide whether you and your family are eligible for government programs.

 To determine if you qualify, they look at how much money you make or earn, how many children you have, and how old you are.

 Health care for immigrants and refugees may be cheap or free, because you may not earn much money at first.  You may be able to qualify for health care through a government program.


 Medicaid is a public health program run by the state in which you live.  The program provides insurance for elderly individuals, the disabled, children, pregnant women, and some low-income families.  Some refugee families will get Medicaid when they first arrive in the United States.

 If you are undocumented and your children are US citizens, they may be eligible for Medicaid.

 Eligibility for Medicaid varies by state.

 IMPORTANT NOTE: In March 2021, the Department of Homeland Security issued a statement that it would not consider using Medicaid (excluding long-term Medicaid), public housing, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits as a general fee in immigration petitions.  Learn more about public charge.


 Medicare is a public health program run by the US government.  Medicare insurance is available to all adults aged 65 and over and to citizens with disabilities of all ages.  Medicare offers a plan to help with the costs of prescription drugs.


 The Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) pays for health care for low- and middle-income families with young children.  CHIP is a good program because it pays for doctor's appointments and medical care for your children.

 It is important for refugee families to take their children to the doctor for annual check-ups and vaccinations.

 If you are undocumented and your children are US citizens, they may be eligible for CHIP.

 Find a CHIP in your state.


 Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is a state-run health care program that specifically helps children under the age of five, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers.  The program focuses on food, food supplies and improving access to health care and social welfare services.

 If you are on a low income and have given birth to a child, this is a good program. 

 Learn more about WIC and find a WIC program in your state.

 private health insurance

 Many Americans have private insurance and do not use public programs.  This is because companies often pay for their workers' private health insurance.

 Health insurance in the workplace

 When looking for a job, you should try to find a job that offers health insurance.  This will help your family.  The employer pays most of the cost and the employee pays a small amount.  For an additional amount, employees can usually choose to include their spouse and any children they have in the same insurance plan.

 If you leave your job, you may be allowed to keep insurance coverage for a period of time, through a government plan called COBRA.  COBRA is only for a short period, after which you may have to pay the entire premium yourself, but the insurance plan coverage will remain between jobs.

 Paying insurance costs without an employer

 If you do not have an employer that offers health coverage, and if you do not qualify for a government program, you will have to purchase private health insurance.  This type can be expensive.  You may be eligible for assistance with your premiums through the Affordable Care Act.

 Affordable Care Act

 The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also called "ObamaCare," requires most US citizens and legal residents to have health insurance.  But it also allows you to buy health insurance at a lower cost with the help of the government.

 Find out if you can get coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

 College medical insurance plans

 Students are often able to purchase health care insurance through their colleges.  To be eligible, you must be enrolled in a certain number of credits.

 College students can talk to their college or university about their options.

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