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January 31, 2018

US Health Care System: What’s Good to Know

The United States of America is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the planet. Whether travelling for business or leisure, each year, millions of visitors come to the United States for periods ranging from a week to a few months. We can certainly say that the visitor will find a welcoming country upon arrival, but it is necessary that the visitor inquires about certain aspects of daily life in the United States that may be very different from his/her country of origin.

One of them is certainly the national health system. It is recognized as one of the best in the world, and is known for medical excellence. But, unlike many countries in the rest of the world, the burden of medical care costs falls on the citizen / patient. In other words, the majority of US citizens sign up for medical insurance to protect themselves in case of medical treatment. If their income is below the poverty line, the federal government intervenes to help the citizen take this insurance policy out.

Considering the above, it is clear that foreign visitors are not covered by the US National Health System. The need for medical care while you are in the United States can therefore result in significant costs. However, it is possible to receive medical care in a public hospital without having medical insurance, the costs associated with these treatments being entirely the responsibility of the patient.

When planning your trip to the US, besides travel medical insurance considerations, don’t forget to apply for your ESTA beforehand, as it is required to board your flight.

What to do in case of a medical emergency

In general, if you need medical care, you have several options, depending on the severity of the problem. If the problem is not very urgent, it is best to call the hospital and ask for a specific doctor’s recommendation for your problem. A visit to a doctor is less expensive than going to the emergency room.

The second option is to contact private health centres, which are cheaper than hospitals. However, it is important to remember that these tend to perform a series of tests on the patient that can increase the final cost, even in cases of minor medical necessity. Always pay attention to the proposed exams, they are not all necessary for you in specific circumstances. Use common sense.

In case of emergency, the best thing to do is to contact the nearest hospital and consult a doctor in the emergency room.

It is advisable to be covered by health insurance

As noted above, the United States has a health care system in which the patient pays for medical care. US citizens protect themselves with medical insurance, why not do so as well as a visitor?

Insurance companies generally exist to protect and back up. If you suffer from sprained ankles, or have dysentery abroad, insurance can help you and won’t leave you alone. You’ll be especially glad you’re not alone when your medical bill arrives. It is therefore very useful to consider the most appropriate coverage for your trip. In addition to medical coverage, many insurances also include theft or loss of luggage, delays and cancellations of flights, repatriation for reasons of force majeure, etc.

How to evaluate and choose an insurance policy

Certain terms and conditions of the contract will guide you through the evaluation and selection of the most appropriate coverage for you. We suggest that you consider:

  • The maximum expenditure covered by insurance. It is recommended that this threshold be higher than € 500,000.
  • If the medical expenses are considerable, it is recommended that the coverage provides for the payment of these expenses directly to the hospital. We do not recommend the refund option after you have paid.
  • Pay attention to the deductible. The part on the bottom is the payment that will be paid to you in the event of an accident.
  • We suggest that you always opt for coverage of repatriation costs in case of emergency (natural disasters, unexpected wars, terrorist attacks, etc.)
  • Choose coverage that includes ambulance transportation.
  • Make sure the phone number is always active and reliable in case of emergency.
  • Check and evaluate optional coverage like baggage loss or theft, insurance in case you rent a car, etc.

Finally, if your trip includes high-risk excursions or sporting activities (activities in the snow, mountain hikes, parachuting, rafting, etc.), make sure that you are covered even in these cases and that the transportation to the hospital (some cases require transport by helicopter), is included in the coverage.

By the way, you can check:

  • Does the insurance’s phone number indicate available doctors who can help you?
  • What assistance will you have in case your injury makes you temporarily non-autonomous?
  • If you spend a long time at the hospital and your family wants to visit you, their travel expenses should be covered.

In general, we strongly recommend that you carefully read the terms and conditions of the contract you wish to purchase.

What if I decide to insure my luggage? 

In this case, read carefully what, where, when, and how. If your luggage is stolen in a car, are you covered? Are the electronics (iPad, phones, portable speakers, etc.) insured? If so, are they insured even if your phone falls into the Grand Canyon? If you have any doubt, ask the insurance company. According to the law, it is necessary to give explanations about the coverage.

What will an insured trip cost? 

It is important to remember that insurance covers high costs, sometimes in the hundreds of thousands of euros. If a European traveller is the victim of a serious accident in Los Angeles, the hospital bill can be quite high, and the State of California will pursue the patient until he/she pays. The same goes for a hiker in the Colorado Mountains who needs an emergency response and has to be transported by helicopter to the nearest hospital.

To choose the most appropriate coverage at the rate that best suits you, you can customize your coverage. In other words, if you are travelling with a backpack and little personal belongings, why would you want to insure your luggage?

Or why opt for auto insurance if you are not going to rent a car?

Remember that a higher price does not necessarily mean the best insurance, nor will it best meet your needs. Studying the coverage conditions and its customization options can help you tailor the best protection for your trip. And it is cheaper than standard insurance.

As a general rule, we can say with certainty that the final cost of the insurance contract is related to the country of origin, the age of the insured, their destination, and the length of their stay. Some insurance for specific geographical areas of the world have a much higher costs than others.

More tips for choosing your insurance 

In order for your choice of insurance to be as informed and appropriate as possible, we invite you to consider the following aspects of the insurance contract:

If you rent a motor vehicle or a car 

Car rental companies usually require you to purchase insurance when you take possession of the vehicle. Some credit card companies offer this service for free to their customers (American Express © for example).

If you want to reduce the cost of mandatory insurance for the renter, you may want to consider taking out insurance for the use of motor vehicles on a personal basis. Always inquire about its costs and compare it with the conditions offered by the car renter, you must make the most appropriate choice for yourself.

Damage to persons or property 

In the United States, the sense of personal responsibility is widespread, even in financial terms. And since the United States is also the nation that stands out in the world for the largest number of lawsuits for individuals and / or compensation companies, you may want coverage that protects your finances from any damage caused to persons or property.

Temporary delays or obstructions 

The journey to your final destination can sometimes be delayed by unforeseen events. The most common is a strike. Others, which are less frequent but more serious, can be natural disasters, terrorist attacks, or even a war. Some insurance companies cover this kind of prevention up to € 250 a day.

Trip Cancellation 

In the unlikely event that your trip is cancelled at the last minute due to force majeure, you should consider covering the costs associated with it (flight, cruise, hotel, etc.). The recommended coverage (you can negotiate) can reach 100% of the costs, in addition to compensation for emotional damage. Remember, the higher the amount of compensation, the more expensive the premium will be.

Bankruptcy of Airlines or any other service provider

To protect themselves from a major change or closure of one or more airlines and / or other service providers, insurance companies have added this coverage. Usually, good insurance offers coverage of € 10,000 or more.

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