If this is an emergency, go to an emergency room. You cannot be denied emergency care at an emergency room.
You can also go to a Community Health Center where they will help you, even if you do not have health insurance. They will only charge you what you can afford.
Also, many Community Health Centers and hospitals have someone on staff who can help you get health insurance or help you find someone who can. These staff members can also help you with unpaid medical bills.
Once you or your loved one is safe, then you can work on getting health insurance.
Getting and keeping insurance
In general, if you do not qualify for Medicaid or Medicare, you cannot be denied private health insurance. You cannot be turned down for health insurance based on your health, age, gender, or current sickness. But your health insurance can be cancelled if you do not pay the premiums.
If you need health insurance, there are people trained and certified to help you apply. Their help is absolutely free. In fact, if you are eligible, you have to get health insurance. If you do not get insurance, you might have to pay a fine.
Read more about how to apply under “The Marketplace,” below
When do I apply?
You need to apply for health insurance during a specific time period of the year, called Open Enrollment. You can apply outside the Open Enrollment period if you have an eligible reason. That is, you can be granted what is called a Special Enrollment Period, or SEP.
If you are not eligible for an SEP, you can get health care at a Community Health Center until the next Open Enrollment period.
You can also get temporary health insurance. If you do, talk to an insurance agent who is licensed with the Department of Insurance. Do not buy any policy from an agent or company that is not licensed with the Department of Insurance.
What do I put on my application?
You need to be truthful when you apply for health insurance, especially about your age and tobacco use. But you cannot be denied health insurance, or have it cancelled, just because you made a mistake on your application.
What if I’m an immigrant?
You do not have to be a citizen or lawfully present to get health insurance or health care. But you need to be a citizen or lawfully present to get health insurance on the Health Insurance Marketplace. There are resources if you or a loved one is an undocumented immigrant.
If your household is of mixed immigration status, you can get health insurance for those in your household who are lawfully present, your children for example. You do not have to tell anyone the immigration status of anyone else in your household who is not going to be receiving the health insurance.
You may be able to get health insurance through your spouse’s employer. And you can always purchase health insurance directly from insurance companies.
Note: Because you are not eligible to use the Marketplace, health insurance might be expensive. You should try to buy health insurance that gives you the minimum coverage. A good place to start to understand your options is to get the help of a Navigator.
See if family or friends can recommend an insurance agent to help you who is licensed with the Department of Insurance. Do not buy any policy from an agent or company that is not licensed with the Department of Insurance.
Learn more about Getting public benefits as an immigrant.
What if I’m denied?
The Marketplace is a place where people can go to buy health insurance. Each state has its own. In Illinois, the Marketplace is Get Covered Illinois. You can visit their website or call (866) 311-1119.
Although you can start looking right away for health insurance from the website, it is a good idea to get help. There is free and good help available.
There is also financial help for some people and families to buy health insurance. If you or a member of your family is eligible for that help, the only way to get it is by buying your health insurance through the Marketplace.
Here is a simple guide to getting health insurance.
Do not pay “deposits” or “prepayments”
You should not have to pay a “deposit” or “prepayments” for your insurance. You should only have to pay your insurance premiums one month at a time.
If a company or person wants you to prepay anything before they decide to insure you, do not buy that health insurance. Stop doing business with that person.
You can cancel a health insurance plan at any time. But you may be fined if you don’t get other insurance to replace it.