I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.See all posts Frank Gogol
Health Insurance for H1B Visa Holders
Having an adequate insurance plan is compulsory, whether you are in the position of an immigrant or not. But what are the specifics when it comes to health insurance for H1B visa holders? Do you need a health insurance plan if you are a holder of an H1B visa or not? Most importantly, what does the law say in this respect? We will try to address these common questions in the forthcoming paragraphs.
Do H1B Visa Holders Need Health Insurance in the US?
Yes, this goes without saying – having health insurance in the US is mandatory. Basically, the healthcare system in the US isn’t free – in fact, it is quite pricey. This is why a lapse in your health insurance cover or not having health insurance at all will most likely cost you a lot of money.
For one thing, there are numerous US employers that will require their employees to work a specific time frame before they actually qualify for health insurance. In such instances, you should get an appropriate health insurance plan for that period as well.
On a different note, there are situations when small business owners don’t supply health insurance as a benefit. In this case, you will have to research different health insurance plans and choose the one that best addresses your needs. As an H1B visa holder, you are eligible to get an insurance plan from the healthcare marketplace in the US.
Difference between Visitor Insurance and Long-term Domestic Insurance
The law regarding health insurance differs in every country. For example, in the US, in the position of a non-US citizen, holder of an H1B visa, you can choose from two types of insurance – visitor insurance or long-term domestic insurance.
Essentially, the length of your stay will play an important part in this direction. So, when it comes to visitor insurance, also referred to as short-term insurance, it is intended for short durations. In other words, it doesn’t supply extensive coverage as it would be the case for US domestic health insurance.
In addition to that, since it is meant for temporary visitors, this means that it doesn’t address the PCPIA or ObamaCare requirements.
One difference between the two would be that visitor insurance is temporary. It supplies coverage for a limited period ranging from 5 days to 3 days. Meanwhile, domestic health insurance policies facilitate coverage from a month to 65 years.
Moreover, the costs for visitor insurance are lower than it is the case for domestic insurance plans. At the same time, visitor health insurance entails international travel, but this isn’t the case with most domestic plans.
Short-Term or Temporary Visit Insurance
Basically, when it comes to health insurance for H1B visa holders, it is a sensible thing to acquire short-term or visitor insurance. Having temporary medical coverage is advisable to have peace of mind that you are covered if anything were to happen.
Simultaneously, having insurance will come in handy for international travel. Not to mention that it will be useful for when you’re just settling in the US.
Long-Term Stay Insurance
Meanwhile, if you anticipate that you’ll stay in the US for a more extended period, then it might make more sense to get a long-term, domestic insurance plan. However, before doing this, you might want to discuss the topic with your employer.
Essentially, you want to see whether your employer supplies health benefits. In addition, the company should indicate whether you qualify for it in your position or not.
In case your employer doesn’t supply health benefits, then it might be a good idea to acquire an individual health insurance policy. You can do this from a private health insurance company, a resident state market marketplace or online – it’s your call.
H1B Health Insurance Requirements
When it comes to health insurance for H1B visa holders, you should get acquainted with the requirements that are applicable in this situation. The truth is that the healthcare laws might be confusing to non-US citizens; in fact, they may be confusing even to US citizens.
To that end, with the approval of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (which is also referred to as ObamaCare) there have been some changes to the US healthcare system.
Basically, the law requires US citizens and permanent residents alike to have ACA compliant health insurance. On the opposite side, a fine will be issued when filing the tax return.
In the case of health insurance for H1B visa holders, the requirements you have to address are influenced by your federal tax status. Although you are in the position of a non-resident alien, you aren’t required to maintain ACA coverage. However, once you have the status of a resident alien, then you have to meet the requirements for ACA coverage, just like any other US citizen or permanent resident. Nonetheless, let’s have a closer look at these two individual scenarios, to have a clearer understanding of what is expected of you.
Non-Resident Alien Status
So, there are two primary paths to an H2 visa – for one thing, there are non-US residents who are in the US as students. They have to participate in OPT. Afterward, they might choose for an employer to sponsor them for an H1B. The other scenario is those of non-US residents who are just arriving in the US on an H1B visa.
In both situations, there is a period when your H1B visa has just started – during that time, you’ll still have the non-resident alien status. In this period, you won’t be subject to the ACA. This can last from six to ten months.
The precise point when you make the transition from a non-resident alien to a resident alien will be determined by the time when you reached the US, and when you basically lost your status as a student. You can always use this test to determine this if you are clueless.
Essentially, when you are a non-resident alien, you will have to opt for short-term insurance coverage, as we mentioned beforehand. This will address your needs until you qualify for getting ACA insurance. Concurrently, this insurance plan will come in handy until your employer supplies alternate coverage.
Resident Alien Status
Moving on to the resident alien status, things are different in this respect. As soon as you have earned this status, this makes you subject to ACA. So, according to the law, you are required, just as any other US citizen or resident, to have an appropriate insurance plan.
When it comes to ACA compliant insurance plans, there are two options to choose from. Firstly, there is the alternative of employer-sponsored insurance. The second one would be getting some kind of insurance coverage via the state and federal charges.
As for the third option, it is actually non-ACA coverage. Basically, as you wait for the insurance plan for your employer to apply, you purchase a short-term plan, but this will mean that you will have to pay a fine when you file your taxes. Let’s have a closer look at these three alternatives, shall we?
Get a Health Insurance Plan Via Your Employer
The truth is that, when it comes to health insurance for H1B visa holders, this isn’t always a possibility, so to speak. However, it would be safe to say that getting insurance via your employer is an efficient way of ensuring that you meet the ACA requirements.
On a different note, there are some employers in the US that supply appropriate insurance plans to their employees – and this entails H1B visa holders as well. When you discuss this topic with your employer, you should address a couple of key aspects. For one thing, you should determine how much you will have to pay, and how much does the employer supply.
Concurrently, you should discuss the waiting period, which is the time you have to wait until the plan becomes effective. During this waiting period, it is advisable to acquire a short-term plan.
The aspect of ACA-compliance has to be addressed as well. Other issues that should concern you are the out-of-pocket costs and the costs of the coverage. Ideally, your employer should offer you a plan summary.
Purchase an Insurance Plan on the Marketplace
In case your employer doesn’t provide insurance, or if the price is too high, as a resident alien, you can always acquire an insurance plan on the Marketplace – which is actually the website HealthCare.gov. This allows you to browse through different insurance plans and choose the one that best addresses your individual needs.
The same way in which you can browse on Stilt to get the right loan for purchasing gold jewelry or any other acquisition you might have in mind, HealthCare.gov makes it easy to find what you need. However, when it comes to ACA plans, they are readily available to buy during the open enrollment period.
If you are outside this window, then getting a short-term plan might be an option worth considering.
Get a Short-Term Insurance Plan and Pay a Fine when Filing Your Taxes
Although this alternative is not ideal, some people choose it in order to save some money. Nonetheless, the evident downside is that you will have to pay a fine. In 2015, this fee was established at 2 percent of one’s yearly household income or, alternatively, $325 per person for a year.
Still, note that these rates are likely to increase on a yearly basis. Essentially, you might opt for this alternative if your employer doesn’t supply health insurance benefits, the marketplace is closed, or there is a limited waiting period until the coverage plan from your employer is in motion.
H1B Health-Insurance Plans
If you’re on the lookout for the right health insurance plans, we have some options for you. Whether you are looking for international student insurance or any other type of insurance plan, the truth is that the process can be quite confusing.
This doesn’t mean you should let it overwhelm you. Instead, you must get your facts straight and act accordingly, as having insurance is mandatory. That being said, we will introduce some plans that are compatible particularly for those of you who have the non-resident alien status.
These are also efficient for the period during which you are waiting for your employer’s plan to get into motion, or the limited time prior to purchasing an ACA-compliant plan from the marketplace. Basically, these are some options worth noting if you’re considering health insurance for H1B visa holders.
Atlas Travel Plan
The coverage period for the Atlas travel plan is of 364 days. As for the coverage, it facilitates up to $2 million.
Patriot Travel Plan
This is an international travel insurance plan meant to offer coverage when you’re traveling abroad, basically anywhere outside your home country. It supplies up to $2 million in coverage. Also, if you want, you may renew it up to 2 years.
Short-term Medical Plan
This plan supplies coverage for six to eleven months. As for the size of the coverage, it is from $1 million to $2 million.
- 6 Ways to Find an H1B Visa Sponsorship
- How to Change Jobs on an H1B Visa
- The Non-ECR Category: A Guide
- H1B Visa Stamping: H1B Visa Interview Documents and More
- Complete Guide to the H1B to Green Card Process
- What Are My Options for Change of Status Visa Stamping If I Am Already in America?
- Guide to the H2B Visa
- H1B Transfer: How To Change Jobs on an H1B Visa
Navigating the topic of health insurance for H1B visa holders can be time-consuming and difficult to grasp – especially since the system is different from most countries. Nonetheless, as we tried to outline, it is important not to overlook the importance of insurance, as healthcare is very expensive in the US. So, if you were to require medical attention, the odds are that you wouldn’t be able to afford it. This is why you should invest in insurance.
Whether you are an international student, you are working in the US, or you are considering visiting your parents, make sure you don’t overlook this aspect.