Are Immigrants Eligible for Medicaid or CHIP?

Most lawful immigrants who have been in the United States for five years or more and meet residency requirements can enroll in Medicare or CHIP. Refugees, people seeking asylum, veterans and, in some states, pregnant women and children might be eligible for Medicaid and CHIP sooner.

There are exceptions, so some immigrants with valid papers and work visas remain ineligible no matter how long they are legally present in the country. Documented immigrants who are not eligible for Medicare in most states may be able to buy coverage on state marketplaces. They can get tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies if they qualify.

Seasonal workers can apply for Marketplace coverage wherever they have a permanent residence. Seasonal workers should look for a plan that has a broad network covering the places they usually work. Applications can be made from a temporary residence during open enrollment. A move to a permanent residence might trigger a special enrollment period.

If some family members are lawful immigrants and others are not, only those who have the correct documents need to produce them. Family members who are undocumented might be asked to produce a Social Security number, but don’t need to unless they have one and are the household tax filer.

Social Security numbers will be checked through Homeland Security, Social Security, or Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) when they are provided. People who cannot be checked through these systems can produce another form of documentation of their status. Medicaid, CHIP, and the Marketplaces are only allowed to use individual’s information for eligibility and enrollment. They are not permitted to make it public or use it to affect anyone’s permanent residency or citizenship.

Immigrants can sometimes buy health insurance through employers or their spouse’s employers or buy insurance outside the Marketplace. Some areas of the country offer low-cost or free health clinics or programs for immigrants. Hospitals are required to care for anyone with a life-threatening emergency. However, they will bill for their services.