The most recent poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation says four in 10 Americans don’t know the Affordable Care Act is moving forward as law. Well, it is. Love it or hate it, you need to get in the know before 2014. So we’re launching a weekly Q-and-A series on the law called Second Opinion. You can send us your questions here.

Our first question comes from Paula Miranda. She’s a 31-year-old North Park resident and an instructional designer, meaning she’s behind many of the online courses at local community colleges. She’s also a first-generation immigrant from the Philippines.

Her mother brought her and her brother to the United States so she could better provide for them, but now the tables have turned and they’re caring for her.

YouTube video

Video by John Rosman, KPBS

Paula asks:

“My mom is a permanent resident here and I’m wondering what kind of benefits she’s going to be able to have under the Affordable Care Act.”

By permanent resident, Miranda means her mother has a green card. She’s been living legally in the U.S. for about 30 years. Some other things you need to know about her:

  • She doesn’t have insurance through her employer.
  • She makes a little too much to qualify for Medi-Cal, which, under Obamacare, is available to individuals who make $15,856 or less.
  • At 59, she’s too young to qualify for Medicare.

The Takeaway

In California, immigrants who are in the country legally can expect to see what most Americans will from the Affordable Care Act.

If they receive benefits through their job, things likely won’t change much (though, they should talk to their employers). If they were already eligible for Medi-Cal, they can continue to receive those benefits. If they don’t qualify for a public health plan, they can purchase a plan through the state-run health exchange, Covered California.

Like all Americans, they must be insured by tax time next year or face a penalty.

You may have heard of a five-year waiting period for Medicaid for immigrants. In California, that doesn’t exist. The state came up with a workaround that lets recent arrivals receive Medi-Cal, the state’s version of Medicaid, if they fall within the new income brackets. But they have sign up for the benefits through Covered California.

The Orders

Miranda’s mother should purchase a health plan through Covered California. Enrollment opens in October and runs through March 31, but she can log on now to get a cost estimate.

If you have a question about the Affordable Care Act, ask it at

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Megan Burks is a reporter for Speak City Heights, a media project of Voice of San Diego, KPBS, Media Arts Center and The AjA Project. You can contact her...

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