Immigration Status and Health Coverage

Most Immigrants Qualify for Health Coverage

Under the Affordable Care Act, most immigrants qualify for health coverage, including the following groups: 

  • Lawful permanent residents or (“green card holders”).
  • Lawful temporary residents.
  • Persons fleeing persecution, including refugees and asylees.
  • Other humanitarian immigrants, including those granted temporary protected status.
  • Non-immigrant status holders (including worker visas and student visas).

Everyone Can Apply

Both lawfully present and not lawfully present individuals can apply through Covered California to see if they are eligible for a health plan through Covered California or Medi-Cal. There is no “waiting period” or “five-year bar.”

Immigrants who are not lawfully present do not qualify for a health plan through Covered California; however, they may qualify for coverage through Medi-Cal up to age 19 or for pregnancy coverage. Immigrants who are not lawfully present can also buy private health insurance on their own outside of Covered California. Additionally, some counties offer other health care options for immigrants who are not lawfully present.

Financial Help

Lawfully present individuals who meet all other eligibility requirements, such as income requirements and California state residency, may be eligible for financial assistance to purchase a health insurance plan through Covered California. Or they may be eligible for free or low-cost coverage through Medi-Cal.

Families With Mixed Immigration Status

All family members must be listed on the application, regardless of their immigration status or whether they are seeking coverage. We need this information to understand income and family size in order to calculate financial assistance and determine program eligibility. All information provided on the application is confidential. 

Documents to Prove Immigration Status

If immigration status cannot be confirmed electronically, applicants will need to provide documents to show their immigration status.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

Individuals who are under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) are not considered lawfully present. They are not eligible to purchase a health plan through Covered California or to receive financial assistance. They may be eligible for Medi-Cal, however, and can apply for Medi-Cal through Covered California or at a county social services office.

Public Charge

The term public charge describes someone who is heavily dependent on government assistance. In January 2020, the United States Supreme Court lifted a nationwide injunction which allowed the public charge rule to go into effect while lower courts continue to litigate the legality of the rule.  There is important information for Californians seeking health insurance through Covered California or Medi-Cal, which use the same application to determine eligibility for both programs.

  • Financial help through Covered California, including advanced premium tax credit (APTC), state premium assistance, and cost-sharing reduction (CSR) to help pay for care, are NOT public benefits under the new rule and will NOT be considered when making a public charge determination.
  • If you are applying for financial help through Covered California’s online application, Covered California will check your eligibility for Medi-Cal and for financial assistance through Covered California.  Some Medi-Cal programs are public benefits under the new rule, but each family’s situation is different. 
  • The public charge rule is complex and may affect families differently based on their unique situation. If you have more questions, please visit the Health Consumer Alliance’s website or call at (888) 804-3536 to speak with a local immigration attorney about the public charge rule. Or visit the Department of Social Services website for a list of community organizations that can provide free, confidential legal assistance related to public charge.