Going to a doctor or hospital can cost a lot of money in the USA. That’s why it’s important to have health insurance. Learn about different types of health insurance and how you can get health insurance.

What is health insurance?

Health insurance, or medical insurance, is the amount of money you pay each month to an insurance company. The monthly cost of insurance is called premium.

Immigrant health care is not much different from that of U.S.-born Americans, but sometimes it can be confusing. The simplest way to explain this is that when you have medical expenses, the insurance company helps pay them. A medical emergency or surgery can cost several thousand dollars. It is better to pay a premium every month than suddenly get a huge bill from the hospital. In general, health care for immigrants and refugees is the same for U.S.-born Americans. Differences in health insurance are based on age, employment, any health problems you currently have, and how much money you earn.

How do I get health insurance?

In the United States, you can:

  • get coverage through government (public health) insurance programs, or
  • Get insurance through your business with the help of your employer, or
  • Buy your own insurance.

To have your medical care coverage or health insurance means you are protected from having to pay expensive medical bills.

Government health insurance programs

Are you qualified?

Being eligible for something means you can get it or have access to it. The government will decide whether you and your family are eligible for government programs. To determine if you’re eligible, 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 be earning a lot of money at first.


Medicaid is a public health program run by the state in which you live. The program provides insurance to individuals and families with low incomes or disabilities. Some refugee families will receive Medical aid when they first arrive in the United States. Eligibility criteria vary by state.

Important note: The public charge rule states that you may be denied a change of status, green card, or extension of your visa if you receive or may receive Medicaid.


Medicare Is a public health program run by the U.S. government. Medical care insurance is available to all adults aged 65 and over and to disabled citizens of all ages. Medicare offers a plan to help cover the costs of prescribed drugs and medications (including many recommended vaccines), care for in-hospital patients, home medical care, durable medical equipment (DME) such as wheelchairs, crutches, and hospital beds and other equipment, and many preventive services such as check-ups, vaccinations, and annual visits, 


The original plan pays for many, but not all, health care services and medical equipment. The supplemental insurance program known as Medigap, which is sold through private companies, can help you pay for some care costs.


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 that refugee families take their children to the doctor for annual examinations and immunization. 


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

If you’re low-income and have a baby, that’s a good program for you.

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.

Workplace health insurance

When looking for a job, you should try to find a job that provides 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 maintain insurance coverage for a while, through a government plan called COBRA. Cobra is only for a short time, after which you may have to pay the full premium yourself.

Paying for insurance without an employer

If you don’t have an employer that offers health coverage, and if you’re not eligible for a government program, you’ll have to buy private health insurance. This type can be expensive. You may be eligible for assistance in your premiums through the Affordable Care Act.

Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also called “ObamaCare,” requires most U.S. 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

College medical insurance plans

Students are often able to buy health care insurance through their colleges. In order to be eligible, you must be registered in a certain number of credits.

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