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How do I get health insurance for an 82-year-old legal immigrant who has health problems?

Apr. 4, 2007

Health Insurance Forum

How do I get health insurance for an 82-year-old legal immigrant who has health problems?

Karine, Colorado

Dear Karine,

It won't be easy. Individual health insurers consider age and medical history when deciding whether to offer someone health insurance. See Tips for buying individual health insurance.

However, this individual may be able to purchase health insurance under Medicare if he or she has lived in this country for at least five years. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, "an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence who has continuously resided in the United States for not less than five years" and is over age 65 may purchase Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) for $319 monthly and Medicare Part B (medical insurance) for $54 monthly. If the individual qualifies for this program, he or she cannot be turned down due to pre-existing medical conditions.

The individual may wind up paying higher premiums if a penalty for late enrollment is applied. For instance, there is a 10 percent increase in the Part B premium for every year the individual could have been, but was not, enrolled in Medicare Part B. Still, this health insurance is a bargain when compared to what he or she would pay an individual health insurer — if even offered a policy.

The individual will have to file an application for health insurance benefits with the Social Security Administration (SSA). For more information, visit the SSA Web site.

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Disclaimer: We are journalists, not financial planners or insurance brokers. Nothing we say should be interpreted as a recommendation to buy or sell any insurance product, or to provide other financial or legal advice.

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