Expats Guide to Healthcare in the U.S.

Sharon  @GoodMigrations

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.

Costs for Healthcare

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Healthcare

Celebrating Halloween in London as an Expat

Sharon  @GoodMigrations

Back in 2010 my husband and I left the concrete jungle of New York City to move to Sydney, Australia and test it out for a few years.

It was a great experience filled with so much. But it also gave us the opportunity to learn about a new culture and celebrate new holidays.  We always loved Australia Day and playing 2 Up. On the flip side, it was equally as exciting being able to share our own holidays and traditions with Aussie locals that might not be familiar with those of our own. I remember hosting a Thanksgiving Dinner where the majority of our guests were NOT from America. And it was a hit! I mean, how can you not love stuffing your face with tons of delicious food while enjoying time spent with friends?

As Halloween quickly approaches, you may be wondering where in London can I take my kids trick or treating? Keeping in mind that this is not a local holiday celebrated by all. In fact, the British hate Halloween apparently. A survey done way back in 2006 found that over half of British homeowners turn off their lights and pretend not to be home on Halloween. Yet another reason the United States is happy to be free from British rule. smiley

Here are a few tricks and treats to celebrating Halloween as an expat in London. 

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Activities Expat Life

Cost of living around the world- what will $100 buy you?

Sharon  @GoodMigrations

When living or traveling overseas, it still always amazes me how much, or how little, your money will get you in another country. Knowing exchange rates is very important to every traveler’s experience. Being wise in money will ensure you are better prepared but also help ensure you will not be taken for a ride during purchases. A good place to start would be on the internet with a quick XE currency converter search before you depart.

When I visited the absolutely beautiful Philippines back in 2013, I was amazed at how far my money went. I felt like a queen when a wonderful dinner out was the cost of a sandwich back home. It was just the opposite when I visited London during the spring of 2014. Doing the exchange rate math in my head, I was pretty discouraged, as my US dollar didn’t go very far there.

$100 USD- GoodMigrations

So we thought it would be fun to show what $100 USD gets you in different countries and cities around the world. Pretty interesting!

What will $100 USD Get You Around the World

India

You can purchase a fancy dinner for two at an expensive restaurant with starters, mains, sides, dessert, and wine. You will probably even have money left over. A good example is a restaurant in New Delhi that my friends recently went to, Indian Accent. Check out the prices! $100 is 6000 rupees and that can get you a lot! If food isn’t your thing then you could afford one month’s rent or give the gift of education to a child for an entire year!

New York City

We all know the Big Apple is pretty pricey but you will be able to afford a taxi ride to and from JFK airport. Dinner, dessert and a drink for one person at a nice restaurant is also an option. Just be careful because tax and tip will sneak up on you when the bill comes.

Philippines

Amazing how $100 in the Philippines will get you food and electricity for 10 days. You can also take a boat tour to different islands for two people.

Oman

323 litres of petrol, 380 litres of bottled water, a speed boat for a morning of wild dolphin watching for two, or six days of food.

United Kingdom

Hungry? Go to Macca’s and you can buy 24 Big Macs (without fries and drink). That’s the best deal you are going to get because $100 USD won’t get you a hotel room but at least you can fill up your car’s tank of gas.

USA

The USA is a big place and depending on where you are you can get a lot or a little. How about 100 McDonald’s cheeseburgers, 6 drinks at the Four Seasons, 6 months of streaming from Netflix, a days rent in San Francisco, two bags of groceries at Wholefoods, or 8 adult tickets to the cinema?

Bulgaria

While this country is known for having amazing feta cheese, there are still lots of other things to be bought for $100 USD. You could get 50 liters of petrol, 15 Big Macs, 12 months of high-speed internet, or 15 adult tickets to the cinema.

Sydney

As beautiful as Sydney is, your money won’t go very far. You’ll get 5 adult tickets to the cinema, 1 Apple mouse, or 25 cups of coffee at a café. Been thinking about doing the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb? Think again! Depending on the time and day of the week you are not even halfway there.

Norway

10 beers at a local pub or 6 packets of cigarettes. Or maybe you prefer admission for 12 into the National Museum located in Oslo.

China

What can you buy in the most populated country in the world? How about web hosting for 1 year, 36 Big Mac’s or better yet get you and 61 of your friends’ admission into the Temple of Heaven in Beijing.

Indonesia

Amongst the beautiful islands there is much to see and do but did you know you and 4 friends could play detective for the afternoon at The Escape Hunt Experience for $100 USD? Maybe you prefer one month of food for one person or 215 litres of gasoline.

South Africa

Safaris, wild animals and vistas that go on for miles are among the many things to see and do in South Africa. Here are some other things to consider: a month of groceries, three tanks of petrol,  23 Big Mac meals or 6.5 cases of beer.

Brazil

It’s a big country so better start off right and fill your car with 64 litres of petrol. Walk the famous Ipanema Beach all day long because that is FREE!

United Arab Emirates

To quote my friend, “that’s about 367 AED and you could purchase one of the following: – unlimited booze brunch at a hotel – sand tour jeep safari for 2 people – one way taxi ride to Abu Dhabi – 3 spin classes at Fly Wheel – 2 Platinum movie tickets – moderate shopping as long as there are sales – a shit load of gas cus it’s dirt cheap over here.” Awesome! Thank you Jose.

Did we forget something? Send us a message so we can add it to our list.

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*NB: calculations are rough estimates based on the exchange rate at the time of publication.

Humorous Money

An Expats Guide to Getting Setup in The UK

Sharon  @GoodMigrations

When you’re heading to the Queen’s country you have to have your finances in order. This includes understanding how to establish and build credit as a new expat in the UK.

Your credit score is a statistical tool to predict the likelihood of you defaulting on your credit obligation. There are a dozen different credit scores built with algorithms to predict the likelihood of default on a particular type of credit (credit card, car loan, car lease, etcetera). The credit score is a tool to allow increased retail consumption.

Credit in the United Kingdom is handled by three agencies cleverly called Credit Referencing Agencies (CRA’s). TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian are the three most commonly used. Experian and Equifax give you a credit score that can range between 300 to 850 and TransUnion gives a rating between 1-5, depending on their specific criteria and system tracking.

Credit Score Table for TransUnion, Equifax and Experian Read more…

Building Credit

The Expats Guide to Building Credit in Germany

Sharon  @GoodMigrations

Having a good credit score is very important to your finances. You may not realize it now but it affects many things in your life: Your credit score can determine whether a landlord will rent to you or not; it can affect your ability to get a mobile phone or a mortgage on a house; it can even prevent a bank from loaning you money to buy everyday things (which means no credit cards since those are basically loans). So what do you do as an expat in a new country with no credit?

Our guide below will help outline the steps needed to establish yourself in Germany as an expat so you can begin building credit (and test your pronunciation abilities because German government terminology is not known for its brevity).

Let’s start with a brief education of the German credit system as it can be confusing for many.

The Schufa

Germany’s sophisticated credit system is called the SCHUFA (shorthand for Schutzgemeinschaft für Allgemeine Kreditsicherung).  As a resident of Germany, this system immediately begins collecting data on your financial history in order to calculate a score. This score will then stay with you for the duration of your residency in Germany.

The Schufa is based on a 100-point scale and gets “dinged” when you are delinquent on payments.  Beyond that, exactly how this score is calculated continues to be a mystery. We do know that scores around 90 are considered positive and should not negatively impact you with lenders.

Every resident is entitled to one free copy of their report per year. Should you need to request an additional copy the Meineschufa website is a great resource to check out.
Meineschufa- Schufa

Building credit in a new country takes time. So be diligent about paying bills in full on time.
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