Healthcare in the USA
Understanding the fundamentals
Public healthcare in the USA
Private healthcare in the USA
Health insurance in the USA
Some employers offer health insurance as part of relocation packages, so expats should find out whether this is in their contract. If not, it may be worthwhile to negotiate its inclusion.
Private hospitals often ask for proof of the ability to pay for treatment – whether in the form of insurance, cash or a credit card. Unless it’s a medical emergency, those unable to show this may be turned away from private hospitals. Public hospitals, on the other hand, are legally unable to turn a patient away regardless of whether they are able to pay – but that’s not to say that patients won’t have to pay at all. They will still be expected to settle the bill.
Pharmacies and medication in the USA
There are plenty of chain and independent pharmacies throughout America. These are well stocked with both brand-name and generic medications, and expats are likely to find anything they need. Generics are preferable as they cost less, but not all medications have generic versions, in which case prices can be high.
Receipts from medication purchases should be kept and submitted to one’s insurance company as proof of purchase for reimbursement.
Emergency services in the USA
In an emergency, the number to dial is 911. Most operators will only be able to assist in English. For non-English-speaking callers, an emergency translator may be conferenced into the call to help with communication.
Paramedics are well trained but ambulance response times vary by region. While service is often fairly swift within city centres, more isolated, regional locations typically take longer to reach. The average response time ranges from five to 15 minutes in most major cities.
By law, all hospitals must provide assistance in the case of a medical emergency, regardless of whether the patient is insured or not. However, expats should be aware that a hefty bill will be handed to them afterwards and they (or their insurance) will be obligated to pay. Also, once a patient is stabilised, private hospitals may refuse to provide further treatment.