While health insurance is not compulsory for foreigners moving to the USA, expats should make getting international health insurance a priority. Some employers offer health insurance as part of relocation packages, so expats should find out whether this is in their contract. If not, it’s often worthwhile to attempt to negotiate its inclusion. If an employer only offers basic health insurance, it’s a good idea to purchase additional insurance as a top-up.
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.
In an emergency, expats can dial 911. Operators are able to assist in English and, in states with a large Hispanic population, Spanish. Paramedics are well-trained. However, ambulance response times vary by region, and while service is often fairly swift within city centres, more isolated, regional locations typically take longer to reach. The national average response time is 15 minutes.
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.