According to the Migration Policy Institute, there were nearly 45 million immigrants living in the USA as of 2017. That’s about 14 percent of the total U.S. population.
If you’re a new expatriate arriving in the U.S., you may have questions about your Medicare benefits once you reach age 65. Here’s what you need to know.
Medicare when becoming a U.S. citizen
Of that 45 million immigrant population, about 75 percent are either naturalized citizens or legal permanent residents. As a new U.S. citizen, you have access to Medicare right away, as long as you meet Medicare’s age requirements.
To be eligible for Medicare, you either must be at least 65 or under 65 and have been collecting Social Security disability benefits for at least 2 years. If you are a new U.S. citizen who is at least 65, you will be able to enroll in Medicare.
However, if you haven’t met the work requirements (10 fulls years of employment during which you paid payroll taxes) you may not qualify for premium-free Part A. Without a qualifying work history, you will pay $437 a month for Part A in 2019.
Everyone, no matter how much you have paid into Medicare, has to pay for Medicare Part B. In 2019, the base monthly premium for Part B is $135.50. Therefore, if you are a new 65-year-old U.S. citizen, you are looking at paying at least $572.50 a month for Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) if you don’t meet the work requirements.
However, it is possible to lower this amount, which you’ll learn more about later in this article.
Medicare if you’re not a citizen
If becoming a U.S. citizen isn’t in your plans, you will have to wait 5 years to become eligible for Medicare. If you immigrate to the United States at age 60 or older, this works out fine for you. However, if you are already 65 or older, you will still have to meet the residency requirement before you can enroll in Medicare.
After five years, you may be considered an authorized resident of the United States if you have permanently resided in the U.S. during that time. Once you are eligible for Medicare, your costs will be the same as stated above.
Younger immigrants and citizens
As a new citizen or immigrant, you have the chance to earn premium-free Part A just like other native-born citizens.
In 2017, the median age of the 45 million immigrant population was about 45 years old. As a 45-year-old new arrival to the U.S., if you work and pay Medicare payroll taxes for at least 10 years, you pay nothing for your Part A coverage.
Medicare rules state that if you have been paying into Medicare for at least 40 quarters (10 years), then you will earn premium-free Part A. If you pay into Medicare for less than 40 quarters but more than 30, you will only have to pay $240/month for Part A. However, for those who don’t pay into Medicare at all or pay into Medicare for less than 30 quarters, the full $437 monthly premium applies.
Insurance options before you’re Medicare eligible
If you relocate to the USA before you are eligible for Medicare and want health insurance coverage, you can buy coverage through your employer, buy an individual plan on the Health Insurance Marketplace, or contact the State Health Insurance Program in your state to see if other options are available.
When you become eligible for Medicare, you can cancel your existing coverage and apply for coverage under the Medicare Program.