More than 70 million foreign visitors travel to the USA every year. Many of them wonder about health insurance foreign visitors to the USA.
Before visiting United States, foreign visitors should keep several things in mind about health insurance and healthcare in the US, in general.
Whether you have friends and family visiting the US, or you are planning to visit the US, you should understand the concept of healthcare and health insurance in the US.
Healthcare is Extremely Expensive
While the United States provides the best healthcare in the world, it is also the most expensive in the world.
A simple visit to an emergency room may cost you thousands of dollars. For anything serious, the cost can be tens of thousands of dollars or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. For most people, it is simply not possible to pay out of pocket.
Therefore, having travel insurance is highly recommended for foreign visitors to the US, even though not strictly mandated by law.
Healthcare is Not Free in the US
Healthcare is not free in the US, even for people that live in the US. Some low-income people that live in the US may qualify for health insurance subsidy but that is clearly not available to foreign visitors to USA.
Even the visits to the emergency room are not free. If you don’t have insurance, when your friend or family member that lives in the US takes you to the emergency room, they will ask such US resident to sign the financial responsibility and make them pay. If you are visiting an emergency room on your own, you still need to pay out of your pocket. Otherwise, all they are required to do is to stabilize you in a true emergency. They are not required to continue your treatment unless you can pay out of your pocket. That means you will need to pay for the ambulance, surgery, hospital room and board, ICU, physician fees, medical supplies and a lot more.
This can be very surprising to foreign visitors traveling to the US from foreign countries such as the UK, many countries in Europe, Australia, etc. that has a socialized healthcare system. However, even in those countries, treatment is not free for foreign visitors. It is provided only to their residents, where the money typically comes as part of their income taxes.
For the US residents, there are many domestic health insurance plans available that are PPACA compliant and provide excellent coverage including for pre-existing conditions, maternity, wellness checkup and much more. However, insurance plans are not available to foreign visitors to the US. Even for US residents, they are available only during the open enrollment period, typically towards the end of the year.
If you already have one or more pre-existing condition, you should carefully consider the options available and the consequences before deciding to visit the United States. Even though there are no travel insurance plans that would cover routine or expected care related to pre-existing medical conditions, many US-based travel insurance plans provide the coverage for acute onset of pre-existing conditions.
Pre-existing conditions are any medical conditions that existed before the effective date of the insurance, irrespective of whether you were aware of such conditions or not, whether you were treated for them or not.
On the other hand, acute onset of pre-existing conditions is typically an unexpected emergency occurring all of sudden without any prior warning or symptoms and you need to take the treatment in the next 24 hours, and you may be covered in many of the travel medical insurance plans.
Emergency Medical Evacuation
Apart from medical expenses for unexpected illnesses or injuries that occur while you are visiting the US, you also need to understand what emergency medical evacuation is. It is a transportation to the nearest place where an adequate care can be given. Not all places in the US have facilities where adequate care can be given. Therefore, you may need to be transported in an emergency which can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Once you are well enough to travel, you may need to be repatriated back to your home country where you can receive further treatment and be with your family and friends.
As each travel insurance works differently, you should look into the certificate wording of each insurance plan for further details.
Travel Medical Insurance
Health insurance for foreign visitors generally covers any new medical condition, injury or accident that occurs after the effective date of the policy. Additionally, some of the travel medical plans cover acute onset of pre-existing conditions, as described above.
Therefore, purchasing health insurance for foreign visitors is a wise decision.
Trip Cancellation Insurance
Instead of purchasing travel medical insurance, you can also consider purchasing trip cancellation insurance. Trip cancellation insurance provides the coverage for prepaid non-refundable trip costs in case you needed to cancel your trip due to covered reasons. As the trip to the US can be expensive, and as the fees with most travel providers such as airline or cruise nowadays are non-refundable, you can protect the investment in your vacation. It also has several additional coverages such as baggage delay, travel delay and missed connection. The exact coverages vary by the specific insurance plan.
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