Health care in America is expensive and so it is very important that you have health insurance for yourself and your family. Health insurance is not provided for everyone by the government, as it is in many countries. Instead, you are required to obtain your own health insurance. There are many different insurance providers and plans, and it can be confusing. Basically there are three ways to get insurance.
- Through your employer: many employers in the US include health insurance as part of their benefits package. In most cases, the employer pays most of the cost, and the remainder is deducted from the employee's pay each month.
- Student insurance. Most universities offer a student health care plan.
- Private insurance. Individuals can purchase insurance directly from a provider.
The Affordable Care Act and the Insurance Marketplace
The Affordable Care Act, enacted in 2010, (sometimes known as ACA, PPACA, or “Obamacare”), includes an online Health Insurance Marketplace which features various different insurance plans and prices to suit your needs and income. Visit the Marketplace website to learn more.
Lawfully present immigrants are eligible to purchase insurance via the Marketplace. View requirements for eligibility.
The Insurance world is full of specialized terms that can be confusing even to native-born Americans. Terms like copayment, deductible, formulary, preauthorization, and many more are defined in this handy glossary provided by Healthcare.gov.
Medicare and Medicaid
- Medicareis a federal program that provides health coverage if you are 65 and older or have a severe disability, no matter your income.
- Medicaid is a state and federal program that provides health coverage if you have a very low income. The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), is a Medicaid program that offers health care for children. There may be a five-year waiting period for some of these benefits.
- If you are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid (dually eligible individual), you can have both, and they will work together to provide you with health coverage at very low cost to you.
Also know that while Medicare and Medicaid are both health insurance programs administered by the government, there are differences in covered services and cost-sharing. (Source: The Medicare Rights Center.)