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Help with Medical Bills for Immigrants without Legal Immigration Status

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project LSC Funded
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Describes what programs are available and who is eligible for medical bill help. #8144EN


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*Read this only if you live in the state of Washington.

*You can find all the fact sheets we link to here at WashingtonLawHelp.org.


I do not have immigration status. Can I get any help with my medical bills?

Maybe. In Washington State, some programs are open to all low-income immigrants who meet other program requirements. Your immigration status does not matter for these programs:

  • Medical coverage for children under 19.

  • Medical coverage for pregnant women.

  • Emergency Medicaid for treatment of emergency medical conditions in a hospital.

  • Treatment for cancer, benign life-threatening tumors, or dialysis.

If you have submitted your immigration application, but have not yet gotten immigration status, you may be able to get other benefits. Read Washington Public Assistance for Lawfully Present Non-Citizens.


Am I eligible for coverage under the pregnant women and children's health programs?

Maybe. All low-income children under age 19 and low-income pregnant women can get this help in Washington State if you meet other program requirements. Your immigration status does not matter.

If you apply for medical benefits for your child, the Health Care Authority (HCA) or Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) will ask for proof of your child's immigration status.  This is only to figure out if your child should get coverage through state or federal funding. Read Apple Health for Kids Program: How to Respond to DSHS Notices about Immigration and Citizenship Documents.


I am eligible for coverage under the pregnant women and children's health programs. Do I have to pay for it?

It depends.

Medical assistance for children is free for families with incomes below 215% of the Federal Poverty Level (about $56,330 for a family of four in 2020). 

Families with incomes between 215% and 317% of the Federal Poverty Level must pay a premium. 


What does Emergency Medicaid cover?

It covers treatment of certain emergency medical conditions in a hospital. It does not cover services

  • In a clinic.

  • After you are discharged from the hospital.

  • Unrelated to your emergency you get at the same time as the emergency treatment.

You can have coverage under the Emergency Medicaid program for up to three months before you apply for coverage. This means you can apply after getting the emergency treatment. You should do so as soon as you can anyway.  While you are at the hospital, ask hospital staff for help applying. 


I get medical assistance. Will this stop me from getting legal immigration status? 

Probably not.  Most medical benefits are not considered in the public charge test that affects some people when they apply for their Green Card.  For updated information about this, read When is it Safe for Immigrants to Get Benefits:  Public Charge Rules and Possible Changes.


I am not eligible for any medical assistance. Can I get any other help with medical bills?

  • If you get treatment in a hospital (not a clinic) and have a low income, the hospital may have to lower your bill. Read "Charity Care:" Medical Coverage for Hospital Based Medical Services.  

  • You can get treatment for a low or reduced fee from a community health clinic.

  • You can buy private health insurance. You cannot buy it on the health benefits exchange ("Healthplanfinder"). You cannot get federal subsidies or tax credits to help pay for it.   


Some of my family are lawfully present immigrants. Can they get medical coverage even if I cannot?

Yes. You can still apply for coverage for your eligible family members. Example: Many parents who are ineligible for medical assistance can get assistance for their lawfully present or U.S. citizen children. 


I believe I am eligible for medical assistance. My application was denied.

You should:

  • Ask for a hearing.

  • Contact a legal services lawyer for advice. (See Get Legal Help section.)

Read Representing Yourself at an Administrative Hearing.


Get Legal Help

Visit Northwest Justice Project to find out how to get legal help. 

Last Review and Update: Aug 11, 2020