California Health Insurance Options for Green Card Holders and Immigrants


California is home to approximately 10 million immigrants, accounting for about 27 percent of the state’s total population. No matter where you are born, access to health care coverage is essential. Some people have insurance through their employer, but many others need to figure out how to obtain coverage on their own. The process can be confusing. As an immigrant or green card holder, are the rules different for you? Do you qualify for healthcare insurance in California? Health for California Insurance Center makes it easy to understand your options and obtain the coverage you need. Learn the ins and outs of health insurance immigrants and green card holders so you can get covered.


Options for Immigrants

Documented immigrants who live in California have access to health insurance. If you are unsure of your exact status, here are some of the immigrant groups who can apply for health care coverage:

  • Lawful permanent residents: Lawful permanent residents are also known as green card holders. These individuals can work anywhere without restrictions and receive financial assistance at public colleges and universities.
  • Lawful temporary residents: “Lawful temporary resident” is a broad term that refers to anyone who enters the country for a specific, temporary purpose. Any lawful temporary resident will have a permanent residence in another country.
  • Refugees and asylees: Refugees and asylees are people who have fled their home country for fear of persecution. An asylee is considered a refugee who is already present in the U.S. Refugees must apply to become a lawful permanent resident after a year of arriving in the country. Asylees may apply for the same status a year after being granted asylum.
  • Those with a temporary protected status: An entire country can be granted temporary protected status (TPS), which means people from that country can gain TPS designation in the United States.
  • Work visa holders: Work visas allow citizens of other countries to work legally in the United States. There are several different work visa categories including H-1B, H-1B1, H-2A, H-2B, H-3, L, O, P-1, P-2, P-3 and Q-1.
  • Student visa holders: Student visas allow citizens of other countries to attend school legally in the United States. Student visa category F covers universities, colleges, high schools, private elementary schools, seminaries, conservatories and other academic institutions. Student visa category M covers vocational and other recognized nonacademic institutions.

If you are a documented immigrant, you can apply for Covered California coverage through the Health for California Insurance Center. Here is what you should know about the process:

  • Financial assistance: The cost of your health insurance premium will depend on many factors, including age, where you live, your income and the coverage you select. Documented immigrants are qualified to receive financial assistance with their health coverage premiums.
  • Immigration status: Immigrants may decide not to ask for financial assistance due to public charge, but this does apply to apply for health coverage and receiving financial assistance through Covered California. Gaining coverage and getting financial assistance will not affect your immigration status.

Options for Green Card Holders

Approximately 26 percent of immigrants in California hold a green card or some other legal status, such as a visa. California health insurance for green card holders works just like it does for immigrants and citizens. Green card holders are eligible for coverage and financial assistance. Like anyone else purchasing Covered California coverage, the price of your premium will be determined by your age, location, household size and income level.

Green card holders, as well as documented immigrants, have access to all of the coverage options offered through Covered California. You can select coverage from the following companies:

  • Anthem Blue Cross
  • Blue Shield of California
  • CCHP Health Plan
  • Kaiser Permanente
  • Western Health Advantage
  • L.A. Care Health Plan
  • Molina Healthcare
  • Oscar
  • Health Net
  • Valley Health Plan
  • Sharp Health Plan

The variety of plans also come at different levelsEach level has varying premium costs and coverage:

  • Platinum: Platinum coverage plans pay 90 percent of plan holders’ healthcare costs.
  • Gold: Gold coverage plans pay 80 percent of plan holders’ healthcare costs.
  • Silver: Silver coverage plans pay 70 percent of plan holders’ healthcare costs.
  • Bronze: Bronze coverage plans pay 60 percent of plan holders’ healthcare costs.
  • Catastrophic coverage: Catastrophic coverage is only available to people younger than 30 years old or people struggling with financial hardship. Catastrophic coverage plans cover less than 60 percent of plan holders’ healthcare costs.


How to Apply for Covered California

Once you gain coverage, health insurance for immigrants works much the same way as health insurance for U.S. citizens. But, the application process might be a little different. Here is what immigrants should know about applying for Covered California insurance through the Health for California Insurance Center:

1. Getting a Quote

Getting an insurance quote is the first step in the application process. Applicants can get a free quote online simply by filling out the necessary information. You will not need to answer any questions about your health, but you will need to answer questions about your income, where you live, your household and your immigration status. Once you get your quote, you will have information on different carriers, plan category — PPO or HMO, for example — plan level, premium price and any subsidies or financial assistance for which you qualify. With all of this information in one place, you can weigh your options and select the plan that is right for you and your family.

2. Verifying Immigration Status

All documented immigrants applying for health insurance in California will be required to verify their immigration status and documented residence in the state. Some of the documents that can be used for verification purposes include a green card, an I-551 stamp on form I-94/I-94A or foreign passport, refugee travel document, reentry permit I-327 and form I-20. Learn more about the different immigrant groups and necessary documentation to apply successfully for health insurance coverage at the Covered California website. If you want to seek financial assistance, you will also need to supply your federal tax information, employer information and income information. The information immigrants submit during the application process will be used for no purpose other than verifying immigration status. Gather the necessary documentation before applying to ensure you can efficiently move through the process.

3. Qualifying for Financial Assistance

Documented immigrants are eligible to seek financial assistance with their health coverage premiums. When you apply, make sure you have your annual household income information and information on any dependents you may have on your tax return. If you did not file taxes, you may still be qualified to receive assistance, but you will need to file taxes for the upcoming year. Financial assistance in California is offered through a premium assistance tax credit and cost-sharing subsidies. To qualify for premium assistance, you need to be a documented immigrant with a household income of 138 percent to 400 percent of the federal poverty level. If you are not eligible for Medi-Cal, you could still qualify for premium assistance if your income is below 138 percent of the federal poverty line. People eligible for cost-sharing reductions will have a household income of up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level. To receive this type of assistance, you need to select a silver-level plan.

4. Open Enrollment vs. Special Enrollment

Open enrollment for Covered California is October 15 to January 15 the following year. During this period, qualified people — including immigrants and green card holders — can apply for or change their coverage. If you do not apply during this window of time, you will need to check to see if you qualify for special enrollment. The special enrollment period is available to anyone who has a qualified life event. Examples of such an event include losing a job and employer-sponsored health insurance, getting married, having a baby, permanently moving to California, getting divorced, losing a spouse and aging out of a parent’s health insurance plan. The Special Enrollment Period begins on December 16 and runs through October 31.

5. Getting Help

Although applying for Covered California is a fairly simple process, help is available to the people who need it. You can call to have an agent, navigator or certified enrollment counselor walk you through the process. You also have the option to print the application in a variety of different languages including Spanish and Chinese.

Where to Go to Get Insurance

Health insurance for non-residents can be obtained in several different ways. The application process typically takes less than 30 minutes for individuals and less than an hour for families. Green card holders and immigrants can apply for health insurance in the following ways:

  • Online: If you have access to the Internet, the online application process could be the easiest option. Make sure you have all of the necessary information regarding your income and household and paperwork supporting your immigration status. Then, start the process by getting a quote.
  • Over the phone: Applicants also have the option to obtain coverage over the phone. Call 1-877-752-4737 to start the process.
  • By mail or fax: Print a PDF of the application and fill it out manually. You can submit the application via mail or fax.

When you are applying, remember to check the dates. If possible, apply during Open Enrollment. Outside of those dates, you will need a qualified life event to apply for coverage during the Special Enrollment Period. 

Health Insurance for Children of Immigrants

Health insurance is important for everyone, including children. If you are a documented immigrant, you can include your children during the application process and on your coverage. If you are an undocumented immigrant, it is possible to obtain coverage for your documented children and family members. It is also possible to apply for child-only insurance. There are many reasons you may choose this option for your child. For example, you and your spouse may have employer-sponsored coverage through work, but it could be more financially feasible to cover your child through a separate policy. Here is what you need to know about California health insurance for children of immigrants.

Child-only health insurance plans offered through Covered California cover a variety of different health services, such as check-ups, school screenings and some immunizations. The exact coverage will vary depending on the policy you select. These healthcare services are an important part of ensuring a healthy childhood.

When it comes to choosing a plan for your child, you can opt for an HMO, EPO or PPO. An HMO policy means your child will need to receive covered care within a specific network of providers. An exception will be made in the case of an emergency. An EPO works like an HMO, but you do not need a referral to access specialists within the network. If you decide to select a PPO plan for your child, you can access both in-network and out-of-network health care providers, but in-network care will be less expensive.

The application process for child-only health insurance is the same as the individual and family application process. You will need documentation supporting your child’s immigration status and your household income information. 

Undocumented Immigrants

Approximately 60 to 70 percent of undocumented immigrants do not have health insurance. People who are living undocumented in the United States cannot apply for health insurance through the Health for California Insurance Center, but there are still ways they can take care of your health in California. Indigent care programs are one option for low-income people who are undocumented. These county-run programs exist solely to provide health care for people who cannot otherwise afford it. In addition to these programs, undocumented individuals can go to safety net clinics and hospitals. These healthcare facilities provide care to patients regardless of their documentation status and income levels. Patients may qualify for reduced cost or free care, based on their income levels. It is also possible that undocumented immigrants could gain health coverage through Medi-Cal. Children in California under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) are not considered lawfully present, which means they are not eligible for Covered California health insurance, but it is possible they are eligible for coverage under Medi-Cal.

Find Healthcare Coverage Using Health for California

Applying for insurance can be intimidating, but having that coverage protects you and your family’s health and future. Immigrants and green card holders can make the process of obtaining Covered California insurance easier by applying through the simple Health for California system. Health for California is a free service that makes getting the right coverage fast and easy. Our agents are standing by, ready to answer any questions you may have and help you find the best plan for your family.

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