Note: This article was written in 2020, and the information regarding COVID-19 pertains to the year 2020.
Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, economic activities have greatly reduced both in the U.S. and worldwide. Millions of people have lost their jobs, and such job losses are increasing every day.
The H-1B visa allows a foreign national to work in the U.S. for a sponsoring employer for a limited period of time. It allows the spouse and minor children under 21 years of age to accompany the H-1B holder on an H-4 visa.
Many H-1B visa holders work in the technology sector and other professional jobs where the employer typically provides them with health insurance and pays for most health-insurance-related costs. Therefore, H-1B visa holders may not fully realize how expensive health insurance premiums in the U.S. are.
If an employee is laid off, they would lose health insurance coverage, as well. As health care costs in the U.S. are among the highest in the world, it is extremely important to remain insured at all times. Even a simple visit to the hospital can cost several thousand dollars, and a hospital stay lasting a couple of days may run into the tens of thousands of dollars. Therefore, it is very risky to be without health insurance in the U.S., as most people will not have that kind of spare income to pay for health care bills.
Long-Term Domestic Options
If health insurance through an employer is no longer available, you should check with your former employer to see whether you can continue your health insurance coverage through a legal provision called COBRA. However, you would have to pay for all health care premiums out of your pocket, which could be very expensive every month—especially when you are out of work.
Health care exchanges have opened up in several states and are offering a special enrollment period during the pandemic. You should check whether any of those options are available and suitable for you.
H-1B visa holders don’t qualify for Medicaid, Medi-Cal, etc. programs that U.S citizens might. Therefore, it would be best not to waste any time looking into them.
Travel Medical Insurance
Fortunately, several travel medical insurance plans are available to H visa holders that permanent residents and U.S. citizens cannot purchase.
There are a couple of suitable products to consider:
International Major Medical Insurance: You can make month-by-month payments automatically and cancel when you no longer need it. The maximum duration is 6 months.
Safe Travels USA Comprehensive: You can purchase the plan for a given duration and then extend it as needed. The plan participates in the First Health PPO network, which has an extensive number of participating health care providers all across the U.S.
Short-Term Health Insurance
In addition to the travel medical insurance plans described above, there is a domestic short-term health insurance plan available called National General STM. Availability varies by state. Depending on your residence state, it participates in the Aetna Open Choice PPO Network or Cigna PPO Network. The covered policy maximum can vary from $250,000 to $1,000,000, depending on your state of residence, and the deductible chosen. There are several co-insurance choices available, choose from 100%, 80% / 20%, or 50% / 50%.
This plan would especially be useful if you have any children that are U.S. citizens.
It is important to understand that both travel medical insurance as well as short-term health insurance plans would generally cover any new medical conditions, injuries, or accidents that may occur after the effective date of the policy. They are not long-term major medical plans meant to cover everything. Therefore, they would not provide coverage for ongoing maintenance of pre-existing medical conditions, maternity, birth control, immunizations, and other ongoing needs.
In any case, it is best to speak to a licensed and experienced insurance representative to discuss your options. Help from Insubuy is available at +1 (866) INSUBUY, 5 days a week, from 8 AM to 7 PM Central Time.
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