The American health care system: an in-depth guide for expats

For refugees
USA (United States)


The American health care system: an in-depth guide for expats

The healthcare system in the United States is one of the most complex and most diverse in the world. To understand its features and deal with medical issues, it is important for expats to familiarize themselves with its main features, costs, accessibility of services and other key aspects. Learn more about the features of the healthcare system in the US

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Even Americans can find it difficult to navigate the healthcare system. For tourists and expats, it can be especially challenging. There are many factors to consider when seeking medical care in the United States, from choosing a hospital to understanding health insurance. This practical guide provides tips and information to help patients make smart decisions about health care. Traditionally, the largest number of migrants come to the United States from India, Mexico, Haiti, and Cuba

The structure and basics of the U.S. health care system

Mandatory health insurance. Mandatory health insurance has become the norm in most states and is governed by various programs and laws. The basic idea is that almost everyone should have an insurance policy or other form of coverage.

Private sector and employer policies. Many Americans get insurance through their employer. This can be beneficial for expats working for U.S. companies. Employers usually assist with health insurance packages, but the cost can be shared between the employee and the employer.

Medical programs for low-income groups. There are special programs such as Medicaid for those with low incomes. This program is funded by both the federal and state governments and provides health care for people with disabilities and other groups.

Health care costs in the United States

Most Americans pay monthly insurance premiums and have their own payments, such as copays and deductibles, that they pay when they receive health care services.

Health insurance costs can vary greatly depending on employer, expat status, age and other factors.

Standard costs may include the cost of non-covered services, medications, devices, and other medical expenses that are not included in the basic insurance plan.

Choosing a hospital for expats in the United States of America

The first step in the American healthcare system is to choose a hospital. With thousands of medical facilities across the country, it can be difficult to decide which one to start with. There are several factors to consider when choosing a hospital:

1. Accreditation: choose a hospital that has accreditation from recognized organizations such as the Joint Commission;

2. Specialization: if you need treatment for a specific condition, look for hospitals that specialize in that area;

3. Reputation: evaluate reviews and ratings online to find out other patients' experiences;

4. Location: pay attention to the location, accessibility and safety of the surrounding area of the hospital.

Health Insurance for Foreigners in the United States 

Understanding health insurance is important when navigating the U.S. healthcare system. Most hospitals in the United States require health insurance. Here are some tips for effectively utilizing insurance coverage:

1. Contact your insurance company: contact your insurer before receiving medical care to find out the details of coverage;

2. In-network and out-of-network facilities: in-network providers often offer lower rates, choose in-network hospitals;

3. Out-of-pocket costs: carefully analyze costs, including copayments, deductibles, and coinsurance to avoid unexpected expenses.

Medical records in the United States

Gaining access to medical records is a key aspect of seeking medical care in the United States. Here are some helpful tips for effectively managing your medical information:

1. Request your medical records: ask your doctor for a copy of your medical history before you leave the country;

2. Take your medical records with you: a physical or digital copy of your medical history to your doctor's appointments;

3. Interpreter services: if your medical records are not in English, use an interpreter to ensure your medical information is understandable.

Medical expenses for treatment in the United States

Medical expenses in the United States can be a significant strain on the budget, so it is important to consider a few tips to effectively manage your healthcare costs:

1. Request an estimate of costs: before you begin treatment, request an estimate of costs to note rates and fees, to get a clear idea of costs;

2. Negotiate payment: some hospitals are willing to negotiate the cost of treatment or offer the best payment options, especially for uninsured patients.

Emergency medical care in the United States

In case of medical emergencies, it is important to know how to effectively seek care. Here are some tips:

1. Dial 911: in the U.S., emergency medical services are called by dialing 911;

2. Know the location of hospitals: before arriving in the United States, locate the nearest hospital to your residence;

3. Prepare your medical records: Having medical records will make it easier for medical professionals to help you properly in an emergency.

For medical tourists who are new to the United States, navigating the U.S. health care system can be challenging, but with proper preparation and information, it is possible to make smart decisions and receive high quality care. Inbound medical tourists can prepare for their medical trip to the United States by learning about hospital selection, health insurance, medical records, costs, cultural sensitivities, and medical emergencies.

When traveling to the United States, expats should research the health care system in detail and choose an insurance plan carefully. Knowing the rules, costs and features of the system will allow you to effectively manage your health and ensure adequate medical care. Be informed, choose an insurance plan that fits your needs, and remember to take preventative measures to stay healthy in an unknown medical system.

Igor Usyk - Head of Legal Department at Visit World

For safe relocation to USA, obtaining refugee status and employment, use the advice of an international lawyer. We help to solve complex and simple issues for your comfort and safety in USA.

Products from Visit World for a comfortable trip:

Checklist for obtaining a visa and necessary documents in the United States;

Legal advice on business issues in the United States;

Travel insurance for foreigners in the United States;

Medical insurance around the world.

More articles on the topic: 

Car insurance for foreign drivers in the USA: what you need to know.
What are the employment opportunities in the USA for foreigners?

The United States needs more migrants to address labor shortages.

Is it legal to cross the U.S. border to seek asylum?

Scholarships for International Students in the USA for 2024/2025.

The foreign housing exclusion: a guide for American expats.

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