When it comes to health insurance, it can be a bit of bore, but the truth may lie in its lack of transparency and understanding by many. When you hear the terms co-pay, premiums and out-of-network it can make the head ring. As an Expat, it’s important to understand the system, the terminology and what’s offered as it will most likely be different than what you are used to.
Health Insurance- US-style may seem confusing and downright mind-numbing but that is no reason to avoid it. It may be tempting to skip out on Healthcare or think you’ll rely on your local provider from your previous country, but when it comes to healthcare in the US, it’s a must. After reading this guide, you’ll be ahead of the 4% of US citizens who understand their own health insurance system.
Healthcare insurance is what allows you to trust that whether rain or shine, flu or pneumonia, cut or injury, you’ll be able to get professional medical help at a reasonable price. Health insurance is what you pay into, either monthly or yearly so that you don’t get hit with high medical bills. Whether you have a planned visit or unexpected accidents, health insurance can enable you to save big money.
Understanding the US Healthcare System
In the United States, there is no National Health Care system like what is found in most European countries. Individuals residing in the US, whether a citizen or legal resident, pay into a private healthcare system. On the flip side residents without healthcare insurance will incur large medical bills when illness or injury comes up. These high medical costs are the biggest factor that contributes to the 62% of bankruptcy filed in the US, according to the American Journal of Medicine.
The government does, however, fund two programs, Medicare and Medicaid, but these are intended for the elderly (65+), the poor, and the disabled. The World Health Organization noted that in 2012 the US had spent 17% ($2.8 trillion dollars) of its GDP on health care – which is more than the United Kingdom and Northern Irelands GDP combined. And the worst part, Americans aren’t any better off or healthier for it.
Many Americans and working expats have their medical insurance subsidized by their employers. Even with this employer subsidy, not everything is covered, and every plan is different. The devil is in the detail so read and re-read your plan.
Since 2010, The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was passed in the US, which reformed the health care system by allowing millions of uninsured Americans to now legally have healthcare. Obamacare also influenced expats by not allowing insurers to deny patients with pre-existing conditions and allowing them to see the doctors of their choice. You do not need to be a US Citizen to purchase US health insurance, but you do need to be a lawful resident or a green cardholder.