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No Medicaid or Medicare? There’s Obamacare

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Bryan Smith for New York Daily News

The Statue of Liberty stands tall in New York Bay, a beacon to immigrants worldwide

Q: My parents are permanent residents, but they don’t qualify for Medicare or Medicaid. Can they get health insurance under the Affordable Care Act? I am a U.S. citizen. My parents have been permanent residents for two years. They are both over 65, but they don’t qualify to purchase Medicare nor can they get Medicaid help. I thought they would qualify to purchase through the Obamacare market exchange, but a Texas “navigator” told me that people over the age of 65 don’t qualify to purchase Obamacare health insurance.

Rita, Houston, Tex.
A: Your parents may purchase health insurance through the exchanges organized under the Affordable Care Act, often called “Obamacare.” That the navigator gave you wrong information doesn’t surprise me. The law is quite confusing.

Most individuals here lawfully, including lawful permanent residents, may purchase Obamacare health insurance. According to Jenny Rejeske, Health Policy Analyst, National Immigration Law Center, individuals who have “premium free” Medicare or who Medicaid may not purchase Obamacare. However, permanent residents not enrolled in Medicare or Medicaid are free to enroll with an Obamacare insurance plan. And, if they meet the income guidelines, the federal government will subsidize their costs.

Individuals who qualify for Medicare because they worked for a total of 40 quarters — 10 years — are not eligible for Obamacare. U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents at least age 65, who have been here five years, may buy into Medicare if they don’t have the work history. Individuals who qualify to buy in to Medicare can choose to participate in Medicare or, buy Obamacare insurance.

Q: Can you direct my partner and me to a lawyer or organization where we can get low-cost legal assistance? My partner and I are planning to get married after living together for seven years. I am a U.S. citizen and I want to petition for her.

Name withheld, New York
A: Many not-for-profit agencies provide free or

low-cost citizenship and immigration law services. You can get the name and address of an agency near you by calling 311. To get your answers to questions about your case and a referral, call the New York State immigration hotline, (212) 419-3737 or (800) 566-7636. You can find a national list of immigration law service providers recognized by the government’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) at http://www.usdoj.gov/eoir/probono/states.htm. Another directory, developed by probono.net, is available at www.immigrationlawhelp.org. Finally, free assistance is available from CUNY Citizenship Now, the citizenship and immigration law service project I direct. Find a location near you at www.cuny.edu/citizenshipnow.

Q. I snuck into the United States more than 23 years ago. Now I am married to a U.S. citizen and we have four children. How can I get legal status? I came here at age 17 after finishing high school in my country, Peru. I have been here since June 1, 1990. Fourteen years ago I married a U.S. citizen. A lawyer told me that after filing the petition, I would have to go back to my country of origin and wait there for a waiver since I had been here so long without lawful status. He said I might get stuck in Peru for many years, so I did not pursue the matter. What are my options?


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