The Law Dictionary

Your Free Online Legal Dictionary • Featuring Black’s Law Dictionary, 2nd Ed.

How Do I Get Health Insurance for Senior-Age Parents Who Have Green Card Status?

Senior citizens who lack basic health insurance coverage may be at serious risk for ruinous health-related expenses. With the average cost of a routine emergency-room visit approaching $1,000, even run-of-the-mill medical care can be prohibitively expensive. Worse, the cost of common procedures like tonsillectomies, gallbladder surgeries and rectal exams is accelerating by several times the national rate of inflation. If nothing is done to control healthcare costs, medical care could quickly become unaffordable for older consumers who lack excellent health insurance plans.

Fortunately, most senior citizens enjoy access to robust Medicare plans that pay for things like prescription drugs, routine preventive exams and certain outpatient procedures. In many cases, Medicare can cover most or all of the costs of a typical senior's medical care. Certain seniors may also qualify for Medicaid coverage or another supplemental insurance plan. For instance, the AARP offers special health insurance plans for older Americans that may be surprisingly affordable compared to other available options.

Unfortunately, senior citizens who don't enjoy full citizenship privileges may not qualify for Medicare coverage. Newly-minted "green card" holders must wait five years or more to receive the full benefits of the Medicare program. If these older permanent residents don't work on a regular basis, they may have to wait even longer to receive coverage. Although there may be exemptions for certain green card holders who arrived in the United States on humanitarian or family visas, these issues are usually handled on a case-by-case basis. As such, it would be unwise to expect to receive Medicare coverage without first checking with a representative from Immigration and Naturalization Services.

If your senior-age parents must pay more than $500 per month for private insurance coverage, you have several cost-cutting options. First, you could check with your local AARP chapter. In recent years, AARP has created several group health insurance plans designed to supplement Medicare coverage. While these can't take the place of all-inclusive standalone policies, they may help shoulder the financial burden of a serious injury or illness.

You could also check with your local insurer to determine whether your parents are eligible for a "high-risk" group health insurance plan. Although these are typically more costly than the average "moderate-risk" group health insurance plan, it's likely that such a policy would save you some money relative to a traditional single-coverage plan. Alternatively, you could drop your parents' coverage altogether and use a low-cost superstore like Walmart or Costco to source their prescription drugs.


This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. The Law Dictionary is not a law firm, and this page does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.