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Green card holder? You qualify for the Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Care Act, often referred to as “Obamacare,” is set up to give Americans access to affordable health insurance regardless of whether they have a preexisting condition, have coverage available through their employers, or couldn’t afford health insurance in the past. If you’re a lawful permanent resident of the U.S., your green card makes you eligible to purchase insurance through the ACA’s online insurance exchange.

Because North Carolina opted not to set up our own ACA exchange, North Carolinians interested in ACA insurance will be signing up through the federal Health Insurance Marketplace at www.healthcare.gov.

Enrollment for insurance through the ACA online marketplace began Oct. 1 -- the same day the federal government shut down. The shutdown, however, does not affect the Health Insurance Marketplace, and you can still sign up. Coverage through plans you buy there begins on Jan. 1.

If your income is such that you can’t afford health insurance even with the subsidies provided by the Affordable Care Act, you may be eligible for Medicaid coverage. Lawful permanent residents are eligible for Medicaid once they’ve had their green cards for five years.

Like U.S. citizens, green card holders are also required to purchase comprehensive health insurance of some kind beginning next year or pay a penalty. If you already have Medicaid or health insurance you like, you don’t need to do anything. You aren’t required to buy a plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace in order to avoid the penalty.

If you don’t have comprehensive health insurance by April 1, you will be subject to a penalty of $95 or 1 percent of your income, whichever is higher, plus $47.50 for each uninsured child, but in any case no more than $285 per family. Again, the penalty does apply to green card holders, and it will go up each year until 2016, when it will be $695 per person or 2 percent of your income, whichever is higher.

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