Expat Health Care Pitfalls In The USA


Health and happiness often go together for expats but sorting out the right insurance for living in the United States can be an expensive nightmare.

Medical care has never been cheap in the US and the health sector is in a state of flux as President Donald Trump has started unpicking Obamacare, the previous president’s efforts to help poorer Americans pay for their treatment.

Expats can expect to pay for health insurance as anyone moving to the country who does not have a 10-year work history does not qualify for Obama’s Medicare when they retire at 65 years old.

With no national health service and a fragmented network of hospitals and doctors, expats will need to arrange their own medical insurance.

Expats moving for work will generally find that their employer arranges their health care as part of the remuneration package.

Check the small print

Retiring expats will need to make their own arrangements.

And that’s where the problems start. Insurance companies tend to have arrangements with specific doctors and hospitals, and if your insurance company does not accept your medical professional, you will have to settle the bill from your own funds. This can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Reading the small print is important as well. Some insurers offer dental and vision policies as separate add-ons rather than all-inclusive deals. Others may not offer the cover.

Prescription drugs can be expensive in America and policies may not cover the cost.

The minimum cover to look for is a $1 million annual benefit limit that includes cancer treatment.

Better is $2 million of annual benefits with cancer treatment included.

Tourist trap

Some policies come with unlimited benefits, cancer care and provisions for mental health treatment.

Even if you do not need these extras, they are worth having for the future.

Upgrading travel insurance to medical insurance is also well worth considering if you are a retired expat on a lengthy visit to the States.

Make sure the policy includes repatriation and full medical costs, or you could end up with a significant bill for treatment. A flight home can cost up to $50,000 if you need a nurse and medical equipment to accompany you.

Although a tourist visa only lasts 90 days, many insurers offer 104-day cover in case of emergencies.

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