Healthcare in the USA
You may have heard horror stories over the cost of the US health system and you would be right to be cautious, but as long as you have the correct cover and the cash then you shouldn’t worry too much, after all the best method of not having to fork out a load of money on health bills is to avoid hurting yourself in the first place. If you do fall ill however then be assured that the US health system is one of the most advanced in the world with its doctors and surgeons being highly skilled and motivated.
Although healthcare for the wealthy is probably the best in the world, the high cost and minimum state intervention mean that it’s sparse or even non-existent for the poor and unemployed. Some 15% of the population don’t have any health insurance at all, and the state-funded health schemes Medicare and Medicaid only cover people over 65 years old, the disabled and the very poor. Unlike in the UK there is no such thing as “free” treatment in the U.S., not even in state hospitals. All care, including emergencies, has to be paid for by you or your health insurance. In many city hospitals you can find an urgent care clinic which is for serious emergencies and is also less expensive than regular hospitals and clinics. But even these treatments will come at a price.
Getting Health insurance cover should be your top priority when planning a move to the United States. Doctors, medicines and hospital care are all extremely expensive and you have to be covered in case you fall ill or get injured. Having valid health insurance is mandatory for all international students in the United States. There is no system of free healthcare or subsidized health insurance schemes in the U.S., so you will probably have to take out private insurance. These insurance policies are very expensive, so it often better to extend your national health insurance for a stay in the U.S. Note that without such an extension, your national insurance will probably not cover the astronomical medical cost in the U.S. as they will probably exceed the ones from your home country. If you do have to take out an insurance policy in America be sure to look around, the internet proves invaluable for this.
When travelling in the U.S., always carry proof of your insurance with you. Otherwise you will be forced to pay a large deposit when visiting a hospital or doctor, since nobody will take the risk of giving you a treatment without a guarantee of being paid.
American hospitals are usually well equipped and have good reputations. Public hospitals however are often overburdened by uninsured patients so most Americans prefer to be treated in the more expensive private ones. Patients are often always referred to a hospital in the US even if it’s just for an out-patients or examination. This is unfortunately down to the compensation culture that holds sway over the American populace. Most doctors would rather send you to a hospital if they have any doubts over your condition then rather risk being sued.
Private hospitals in the USA provide some of the best healthcare in the world but it comes at a price. The cost of a hospital room can be as much as $1000 and this is before you even have to pay for medicines, tests or treatment. The sheer cost a visit to the emergency room shows how necessary having health insurance is. If you don’t have adequate cover then your trip to the hospital could turn into a financial catastrophe.
If it is your decision whether or not to go into hospital, check your coverage with your insurance company. When going to a hospital or clinic, take proof of your health insurance coverage with you. If you are admitted to the hospital, your health insurance will cover the costs of that stay.
To get further information on US hospitals look at: www.hospitalsworldwide.com/hospitals.php?country=USA.
Call 911 if you need urgent medical treatment or in case of emergency. You can call for an ambulance, police or fire-fighters using this number. You can dial 911 free of charge from any public phone.
In the event of an emergency and if you cannot make it to hospital by yourself, you should call 911 and request an ambulance. However, if you can get the treatment needed from your doctor head there instead as by avoiding going to hospital will save you a small fortune. If you can get to the hospital by your own volition you should call ahead and book an appointment before you arrive. This could save you hours of waiting in a hospital emergency room.
If you’ve been taken to a private hospital, you may be transferred to a public hospital if your situation has stabilized. Public hospitals also offer out-patient treatment to uninsured patients without advance payment. However, this treatment is often of only a basic or even inadequate nature, and you should expect long waiting lists. Public hospitals are simply unable to cope with the millions of uninsured people.
Whatever hospital you end up in you will get billed for your treatment and care afterwards. The US system is relentless in forcing you to pay which is why having adequate health insurance is vital. If you can’t pay the hospital will sue you, if you don’t cough up the cash then the courts get involved and the judge will judge against you with consequences that can last for years.
Once again ‘The most important thing to do when you arrive in the USA is to get health insurance!’