If you have received an H1B visa (Person in Specialty Occupation Visa), you will be preparing for your arrival in the US. One of the most important things to plan for is your health insurance – a must for the US!
Getting H1B visa health insurance can be confusing, especially if you are unfamiliar with the American healthcare system. As a matter of fact, the healthcare system in the US can be confusing to the citizens themselves, let alone foreigners.
Do H1B Visa Holders Need to Get Health Insurance in the United States?
All H1B visa holders need to obtain health insurance while they are living and working in the United States. Because of the high cost of healthcare in the US, living there without adequate coverage is not a practical option. But when it comes to private H1B health insurance (ie. not ACA-compliant), you need it if:
- You are not eligible for ACA-compliant medical insurance yet (you have just gotten your H1B visa); or
- Your employer does not offer group health insurance and you cannot find a suitable health insurance plan on the Marketplace.
You can compare plans and get a free quote here.
If you have any family members with you in the US, such as your spouse and children, you have to get health insurance for your dependents as well, or they can be added to your plan.
Once you and your family members become eligible to get a Green Card, you will have to get medical insurance for Green Card holders.
Types of H1B Health Insurance
The type of H1B health insurance you need or, more accurately are eligible for, depends on your residence status. Therefore, you can have:
- Short-term insurance
- Long term (domestic) insurance
Short-term H1B health insurance
If you have just recently gotten your H1B visa, then you are still considered a “visitor” or “temporary resident” in the United States. As such, you do not qualify to get ACA (Affordable Care Act – ObamaCare) compliant health insurance coverage.
During this time, you will have to purchase a short-term H1B health insurance plan yourself from a private company.
In 6 – 10 months after receiving your H1B visa, you become a resident alien for tax purposes (meaning you have lived in the US for at least 183 days in a year). This means you become eligible for long-term or domestic plan
Long-term (domestic) H1B insurance
About 6 to 10 months after you receive your H1B visa, you become eligible to get ACA-compliant H1B health insurance, which offers long term coverage. That’s because you are considered a resident alien for tax purposes, despite not having a Green Card (basically, it means you have lived in the US for at least 183 days out of the year).
You can get ACA compliant insurance in the following ways:
- Through your employer. Most large companies offer their employees healthcare plans, usually in group plans. These group plans are cheaper both because they are for a large number of people as well as because the employer covers part or most of the expenses.
- Through the Marketplace. If your employer does not offer health insurance or the plan they are offering does not suit your needs, then you can buy your own ACA-compliant health insurance through the Marketplace (healthcare.gov).
Additionally, if you do not want to purchase health insurance through any of the two aforementioned plans, or they do not suit your needs, you can buy your health insurance from a private company. However, in this case, your H1B insurance will not be ACA-compliant, and you may have to pay a fine when you file your tax returns (amounting to about 2% of your annual income).
Even after you become eligible for ACA, you can still purchase short-term H1B health insurance if you think it suits your needs better. They are usually cheaper than domestic ones.
But short-term health insurance only covers periods starting from as little as three days to a maximum of three years, while long-term or domestic health insurance covers periods starting from one month to up to 60+ years.
Additionally, because short-term plans are not ACA-compliant, they don’t usually offer coverage for things like pre-existing conditions or maternity.
What Does H1B Health Insurance Cover?
Long-term or domestic health insurance usually offers a broader range of coverage, including pre-existing conditions and maternity. That’s because these plans have to satisfy the requirements of the ACA.
On the other hand, short-term private health insurance coverage varies depending on the company or the specific insurance policy. All plans will cover things like doctor’s visits, hospitalization, emergency services, surgery, etc. But pre-existing conditions or maternity coverage are rarely included in these plans, although some offer health insurance for the acute onset of a pre-existing condition.
Where to Buy H1B Health Insurance?
You can buy H1B health insurance at the Marketplace (if you qualify for the ACA) or through private companies. If you are looking for a short-term H1B health insurance plan, then you can visit websites such as Insubuy, which allow you to compare different types of plans before making a decision.
Keep in mind:
Comparing different policies is important because not all of them offer the same coverage. So, it goes without saying that plans with better and longer coverage will cost more.
Don’t go for the cheapest plan you can find, because those plans usually cover only a small portion of your medical expenses. So, if your H1B health insurance policy claims they will cover $5,000 per accident/illness, but you have a $40,000 medical bill, you will have to pay the rest out of your own pocket.
Best Health Insurance Plans for H1B Visa Holders
Here are the best health insurance plans available for H1B visa holders:
Insubuy offers you the chance to compare different types of health insurance plans. You get to read each different policy carefully before settling on the one which best suits your needs.