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The healthcare system in the USA


Healthcare in the United States can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, medical facilities and the quality of healthcare in the United States are among the best in the world. On the other hand, treatments and medications can be prohibitively expensive because the U.S. does not have a public healthcare system in place. It is highly recommended that travellers or expats to the United States purchase private health insurance according to their needs when moving to the U.S.

 Important: In case of an emergency, you will never be denied medical care. However, after treatment, you will be asked for personal details and held responsible for any and all charges related to your emergency care, which can be quite expensive.

Medicaid and Medicare

Subsidised public care is available for children, the elderly, disabled individuals, and those below a certain income threshold. Medicaid is designed for low-income households, children, and disabled people. Medicare is a program designed for seniors over 65 years. Both of these plans are federally funded but individually managed by each state, so make sure to check with your state of residence first.

Private health insurance

All private health insurance policies in the U.S. operate off of a system of premiums (fees) and deductibles (the amount up to which the individual is required to pay). Based on your insurance package, you will pay a premium each month. When you have an operation or long-term treatment, your insurance company will begin to cover your care only after the deductible is met. The lower the deductible, the higher the monthly premium. Routine doctor visits and exams are covered by a flat fee (called a co-pay) of $15–35 USD on average per visit. Prescription medications are also covered in health insurance packages, either by a co-pay or once your deductible is met.

Your employer can provide private health insurance in the U.S. or you may purchase coverage individually. Employer-offered health insurance can come in the form of a lower premium or a Health Savings Account, which allows you to deposit untaxed pay into a special account used solely for medical services. It is not required that U.S. employers subsidise health coverage for employees. However, since healthcare insurance is expensive, it is a benefit that many employees seek when applying for a job.

 Important: It’s very important that you familiarise yourself with your policy before you sign up for coverage. Make sure to understand what treatments your insurance will cover, how much they will cover, and what you will pay out of pocket.

 Good to know: A social security number (SSN) or Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) is used to track individuals for tax purposes and is a common ID in the United States. Permanent and temporary residents should request an SSN or ITIN as soon as they are granted a non-visitor visa. In order to sign up for a private health insurance policy, you will need to provide one of these pieces of identification.

Emergency numbers: 911: medical emergency, police, fire brigade

 Useful links:

Medicare web page 
Medicaid web page
Official government information on finding health insurance
SSN/ITIN for non-citizens

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.
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Member since 01 June 2008
Small earth, Mauritius
1 Comment
last year

From 3 years things with health insurance changed drastically. Now the local medical insurance is connected to the personal taxable income.


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Would you like to live in the USA?

Find useful information in our expatriate guide.