What to Know About Medicare As a Green Card Holder

By Casey November 4, 2021 (Updated November 4, 2021) 2 min. read

If you’re approaching retirement and have a green card, you might be wondering if you qualify for Medicare. Medicare is available to permanent legal residents in the United States but has some restrictions based on work and residency history.

Medicare Requirements

There are a few key differences in requirements for Medicare for green card holders. Like all American citizens, you’ll need to be at least 65 years old to qualify. There are also some residency and work requirements to consider.

Residency Requirements

To qualify for Medicare you’ll need to be a permanent resident of the United States. While there are some alternative health insurance options for new residents, you’ll have to live in the United States for 5 years in a row to benefit from Medicare.

Work Requirements

You’ll also need to have worked in the United States for at least 10 years (or 40 quarters) to qualify for this government benefit. These years don’t need to be consecutive, unlike the residency requirements.

If you’ve worked 40 quarters throughout your life and meet all other requirements, you’re eligible for Medicare Part A without premiums.

Are There Any Exceptions?

In some cases, if your spouse qualifies for Medicare, you can also apply even if you don’t meet these outlined requirements. 

If your spouse has been an American citizen for at least a year or is a fully-insured green card holder, then you’re more likely to be eligible for Medicare when you don’t meet working or residency requirements.

Costs For Medicare Depending on Your Work History

If you have a full 10 years or 40 quarters of working in the United States, then you can enroll in Medicare Part A. For each quarter, you’ll need to have earned more than $1470 for it to count towards your 40 working quarters.

You can still purchase Medicare Part A insurance if you don’t fulfill the working requirements. 

Is the Enrollment Process Different?

If you’re a green card holder applying for Medicare, the process is no different than for anyone else. Your initial enrollment period begins three months before your 65th birthday and ends three months after. 

It’s very important to apply within this time period so that you avoid penalties for delaying coverage. If you’ve received Social Security benefits for more than four months before turning 65, then you might be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A and B. 

Visit the Social Security Administration website to check if you’re already enrolled and choose what Medicare plans you’d like to enroll in.

What to Do If You’re Not Eligible for Medicare

There are many private insurance plans available to you if you need healthcare coverage before you fulfill residency or working requirements. Many choose to use visitors or travelers’ insurance while they work towards meeting these requirements.

While Medicare enrollment requirements are a little different for green card holders, the overall enrollment process is the same for all eligible American residents.

Look through the visual below for more information on Medicare for green card holders and to take our Medicare eligibility quiz if you’re still unsure about your options.