Navigating the American Healthcare System for Immigrants

Updated on January 26, 2020

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Immigrants face a unique set of challenges when it comes to navigating the American healthcare ecosystem. Not only do they need to deal with the obvious language and cultural barriers, but they also need to deal with an ever-evolving set of regulations and standards enforced by the US government. 

However, finding health insurance and gaining access to healthcare doesn’t need to be a complicated process. In fact, by using some of the tips posted in this article you’ll be able to find quality healthcare coverage at an affordable price (no matter where you live in the US). 

Know if You Qualify for Special Immigrant Healthcare Programs 

The federal government has numerous special healthcare programs in place designed specifically for immigrants and new residents of the country. Below are some of the more popular programs that you might be eligible for:

  • If you’re under 21, don’t have a green card, and are pregnant, you might qualify for Medicaid. 
  • If you’ve had your green card for more than five years, you might also qualify for Medicaid.
  • No matter what your residency status is, or how long you’ve been in the country for, there are numerous community healthcare organizations that provide healthcare to everyone.  
  • If you are undocumented, you might be eligible for Medicaid (depending on your circumstances). 

Only Use Local Information 

One of the biggest problems faced by immigrant populations is the lack of clear (and current) information available on healthcare-related issues. If you’re an immigrant trying to find medical help for Indians in the US, and you resort to asking a family member in another part of the country, you simply won’t be getting relevant information. 

The best way to get up-to-date information regarding healthcare laws, regulations, etc. is by going straight to the source. Many states/cities have dedicated departments who are required to help residents obtain health insurance. 

There are also community organizations in many cities and regions that can help immigrants obtain healthcare. If you’re unable to afford standard healthcare, it’s recommended to look into community-based healthcare organizations in your area. 

Healthcare Marketplace Tips for Indian Immigrants

  • Remember that you need to be a legal resident/citizen of the US in order to purchase health insurance via the marketplace. 
  • If you’re a recent immigrant or have experienced a change in your immigration status you probably qualify for a special enrollment period. 
  • The marketplace is only open during certain times of the year, however, there are numerous special enrollment periods that one can qualify for. 
  • Depending on what your income is, you might qualify for lower health insurance costs.  
  • Medicaid and other special programs might require that you wait a certain period of time (some people have been known to wait up to five years). 
  • If you have family members in your household who aren’t applying for health insurance, you aren’t required to submit any information regarding their immigration status (during the application process). 
  • If you aren’t able to afford a health insurance plan via the marketplace, there are numerous community health organizations that offer free/low-cost healthcare services.
  • If you have family members that aren’t citizens or have “mixed-status” household members, you might qualify for special healthcare rates/premiums. 

Healthcare Problems Typically Faced by Indian Immigrants

Whether you’re a provider or an immigrant, it’s important that you understand some of the common problems that immigrants face (from a healthcare perspective). Without a doubt, one of the biggest problems that many immigrants face is the lack of a welcoming medical/insurance environment.

 If you’re a provider, go the extra mile to make sure that your immigrant patients receive as warm a welcome as possible. If you’re an immigrant, understand that many medical providers have special programs in place for immigrants (you might just need to ask about them). Ask your medical office if they have any informational documents in your language.

Making sure that providers understand the unique medical (and travel) histories of immigrant patients is essential to their overall health. Immigrants are oftentimes coming from countries with underdeveloped medical infrastructures, so keep this in mind when performing initial screenings. 

Keeping up-to-date with immigration policy news (and how it can affect healthcare policies) is highly recommended. You never know when the political environment might start to influence healthcare for immigrants. This is why it’s important to stay informed about what’s going on in the healthcare policy world (both at a federal and state level).

Throughout the year, our writers feature fresh, in-depth, and relevant information for our audience of 40,000+ healthcare leaders and professionals. As a healthcare business publication, we cover and cherish our relationship with the entire health care industry including administrators, nurses, physicians, physical therapists, pharmacists, and more. We cover a broad spectrum from hospitals to medical offices to outpatient services to eye surgery centers to university settings. We focus on rehabilitation, nursing homes, home care, hospice as well as men’s health, women’s heath, and pediatrics.