Medicare’s the main name in the healthcare game for seniors living in the United States. Unless you’re not a citizen.
About 5 percent of the 1.1 million people who become lawful permanent residents every year are 65 and older, according to the Migration Policy Institute. And many of those green card holders don’t qualify for Medicare, the primary government-backed health insurance program for seniors.
Right now, commercial health insurance options are limited, expensive or not available at all or this population. That’s a big worry, since this is the time of life when most people are dealing with chronic conditions and struggling to keep their aging bodies healthy.
So it’s no wonder many are curious if the new federal Healthcare Marketplace can offer them some more-affordable options. That program, also known as the online exchange, opens Oct. 1 for people wanting to buy coverage for 2014 and lets them pay a monthly premium based on income and the type of coverage they want.
One Lithia resident in this situation reach out to The Tampa Tribune’s Healthcare Q&A, (TBO.com/health) recently because she couldn’t find a straight answer.
Q: I understand the Healthcare Marketplace insurance is not available to Americans over 65 as they are eligible for Medicare. But I am 72, a legal U.S. resident for seven years, and I have not yet met the work requirements to qualify for Medicare.
Now, my out-of-pocket for health insurance is approximately 50 percent of annual income. Is there any provision for assistance in these circumstances? — Eunice from Lithia
Answer: Older immigrants in this country have long faced the quandary of not being able to easily afford health insurance.
The Affordable Care Act will change that, as you and other legal U.S. residents will be able to shop for insurance on the marketplace, also known as the exchange. The online exchange is available to you because Medicare is not an option, said Karen Pollitz, a policy expert at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The premiums should be far less expensive than you face now, and you might be eligible for some subsidies based on income. It isn’t clear how your immigration status affects that part of the plan.
The good news is you will have more options. But it also could be complicated. I encourage you to do a lot of homework regarding your options before making a final decision.