According to the Office of Immigration Statistics of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), more than 990,000 foreign nationals received permanent resident status or green card status in the US in 2013 alone. Most of these people originated from Mexico, China and India.
When I became a green card holder, the first thing I wanted to know is whether I could access any government support for my healthcare expenses. This is a valid concern for almost everyone in America, given the high cost of medical care in the country. One way that anyone who is a green card holder in the US, either by being employed here or by being the immediate relative of a US citizen, can get such support is through Medicare.
What is Medicare?
Medicare is a federal government program, quite similar to health insurance, which provides health care coverage to elderly US citizens. Medicare benefits are provided in four parts, Medicare A, B, C and D, also known by alternate names:
- Medicare Part A and Part B: Original Medicare that covers inpatient hospital care, skilled nursing facility care and home health care.
- Medicare Part C: Medicare Advantage Plans or MA Plans that are private alternative plans to Original Medicare. These plans, other than covering the same benefits as Medicare Part A and Part B, also cover additional benefits, such as dental and routine vision, hearing and prescription drugs.
- Medicare Part D: Prescription Drug Coverage provides prescription benefits and work, alongside Original Medicare.
Are Green Card Holders Eligible for Medicare?
A US citizen is eligible for Medicare when they reach the age of 65. However, they can also qualify before this age if they receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for a certain period of time, usually two years, or have certain medical conditions, such as have End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The person or their spouse should have worked in the US and paid Medicare taxes for a minimum 10 years or 40 quarters.
You should also know that a new immigrant or a new green card holder may not qualify for Medicare insurance due to specific and strict eligibility criteria. Recent immigrant or new green card holder, even if they are 65 years or more, who have not worked in the US, may not immediately qualify for Medicare since they have not paid taxes.
What are the Other Options?
Green card holders who haven’t worked in the US may qualify for premium-free Medicare Part A through your spouse’s employment history.
If you do not qualify for free Medicare and your spouse doesn’t have enough work credits, it doesn’t mean that you can’t buy Medicare. Based on your employment history, which determines your ability to pay a premium for Medicare Part A, a green card holder can become eligible for Medicare benefits.
You can sign up for Medicare Part A by visiting the Social Security website, applying in person at a Social Security office, or calling them on the phone. You’ll then need to pay a monthly premium, which will be slightly higher if you opt for Medicare Part B as well.
Meanwhile, you can also check out the best health plans for GC holders, in case your Medicare application gets delayed or cancelled for some reason.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
- What is Medicare, compared to Medicaid?
Medicare and Medicaid are meant to pay for your health care expenses. However, Medicaid covers needy US citizens of all ages, whereas Medicare is restricted to seniors, aged 65 and over, along with younger people with disabilities.
- What Percentage of the Healthcare Costs is Covered by Medicare?
Part B medical insurance pays 80% of the approved charges, which is considerably less than what the doctors actually charge, while the remaining needs to be paid by the benefit holder.
- What is NOT Covered by Medicare?
Medicare does not cover health care services like alternative medicine, including experimental procedures and treatments, chiropractic services with exception and acupuncture.
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