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A Reader Asks: Will International Students Be Eligible For Health Law’s Subsidized Coverage?

Nov 22, 2013

Q. Since some noncitizens can receive premium tax credits to buy a health plan on the health insurance marketplace, does that mean that international students are also eligible for tax credits if their income is between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level?

A. They may be. “Lawfully present” immigrants, including international students who are enrolled in a college or university in the United States and visiting scholars who are here teaching or conducting research, for example, may be eligible for subsidized coverage on the health insurance marketplaces.

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In general, in order to qualify for subsidized marketplace coverage, international students’ income would have to be between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level, as you noted ($11,490 to $45,960 for an individual in 2013).

If their income is less than 100 percent of the federal poverty level, however, they may also qualify for tax credits on the exchanges under a special rule for people who are lawfully present in the country but not otherwise able to qualify for Medicaid because of their immigration status

In general, people who are here temporarily, such as students, can’t qualify for Medicaid, says Jenny Rejeske, a health policy analyst at the National Immigration Law Center.

There’s a further twist. In order to receive tax credits, international students must be state residents, and that can be problematic.

“We advise students to talk with an immigration lawyer to make sure that declaring residency won’t interfere with their visas,” says Rejeske.

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