As a foreigner, living in the USA may seem utterly different from what you have always known; it offers you a new level of adventure accompanied by the challenges of living outside of your home country. One of these challenges is securing comprehensive health insurance in the USA.
In the USA, health insurance policies are mandatory for all foreigners. As a result, foreigners are expected to opt for a USA health insurance policy that will be valid in their home countries and other major countries of the world. Getting the right health insurance for foreigners in the USA will be essential for both the foreigners and their host as it will eliminate any unplanned expenses that may accrue if they become sick.
Apart from discussing everything you need to know about health insurance in the USA for foreigners in this post, we will also take you by the hand and help you find the best health insurance in the USA for foreigners. Read along.
Health Insurance Coverage for Foreigners in the USA
Health insurance coverage is not a compulsory requirement for non-USA citizens traveling to the United States on a short vacation or visiting friends. This implies that a temporary visitor to the United States is exempted from the USA insurance rules, and as such, you will not be fined by the USA government for not having health insurance.
However, it is not entirely good to travel to the United States — even as a temporary visitor — without health insurance. The reason? Adequate healthcare in the United States is overly expensive. With health insurance, you may have to pay amounts that mount up to hundreds or thousands of dollars for minor injuries or illnesses. Hence, health insurance for non-US citizens can be a great help to visitors in case of an unforeseen illness.
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Although the health insurance for USA short-term visitors may not be the same with US residents, you can opt for Visitors Insurance or short-term health insurance for their optimum health protection and peace of mind. This form of health insurance can protect the traveler throughout their stay in the United States. The insurance plan includes the following: doctors’ visits, treatment in the emergency room or the hospital, treatment for non-life-threatening and life-threatening illnesses and injuries, covid-19 coverage, prescription drugs, repatriation, and emergency medical evacuation.
An expatriate is a term that is used to describe a migrant worker who is professional or skilled in their profession. The worker takes a position outside their home country, either independently or as a work assignment scheduled by the employer.
While the US government does not require expatriates to get a health insurance plan in America, it is highly recommended that they get health insurance in the USA to save on hospital bills and access appropriate medical care for their emergency health needs. This is due to the exorbitant medical costs in the US, which are a lot higher than the average of most countries. In addition, the United States makes use of advanced medical facilities to provide patients with above-average medical services. Besides, public healthcare is provided only to a portion of the population. This is why most people, including the locals, have private health insurance coverage in America.
Your employer will usually give insurance that extends coverage to immediate family members. However, this is often not enough to take care of the cost of the expensive healthcare service in the country. As with most immigrants, it is highly recommended that expatriates purchase international health insurance to make sure they are protected in emergencies.
The requirement for getting medical coverage in the USA varies depending on your country of origin and visa type. Some visa types will require you to obtain at least basic coverage. The US customs stated that expatriates must show proof that an approved health insurance provider covers them. Family or employment-based policies are usually the types of plans accepted. The policy should be valid within 30 days of entering the US territory unless you have proven that you have enough money to cover any foreseeable medical cost.
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Health Insurance for Foreigners in the USA and the ACA Penalty
The Affordable Care Act, ACA for short, shows the shared responsibility provision. It is also known as Obamacare, and it is aimed at ensuring that all US citizens and permanent residents have access to quality and affordable health insurance in America.
Non-residents, such as international students who are under the F, J, M, and Q visa categories, are not subjected to the individual mandate during the first 5 years of their stay in the country. Also, individuals in the J category — teachers, trainees, au pairs, students, and travelers — are not subject to the individual mandate for two years.
Under the ACA penalty policy, foreign nationals who live in the US for a short period are exempted from the individual shared responsibility payment even though they may have to file for a US income tax return.
The following individuals are exempted from this rule:
- Non-resident aliens;
- Dual-status aliens who are in their first year of residency in the US;
- Non-resident aliens or dual-status aliens who chose to file a joint return with a US spouse;
- Individuals who file a Form 1040NR or Form 1040NR-EZ, including a dual-status tax return for their last year of stay in the US as a resident; and
- Individuals who are valid for personal exemption on Form 1040NR or Form 1040NR-EZ.
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However, please note that every US citizen living in the country is subject to individual shared responsibility provisions. In addition, all permanent residents and foreign nationals, who have been in the United States for a prolonged period and qualify as resident aliens for tax purposes, are also covered by the provision.
Cost of Short-Term Health Insurance in the USA
It is pertinent to be in the know of the cost of short-term health insurance in the USA before traveling. The price for obtaining an international health insurance plan varies significantly as follows:
Short-term travel medical plans could range from $1.50 per day to over $10 per day for older clients or more comprehensive coverage.
The most affordable global medical plan we offer ranges from $400 to $500 a year, while the most expensive but comprehensive ones can reach as high as $30,000 to $40,000 a year.
The more affordable catastrophic coverage that only covers worst-case scenarios is good for travelers on a budget. On the other end of the spectrum, comprehensive medical plans may include physician visits, hospitalization, prescription drugs, lab services, and chronic disease management.
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How Much Coverage Do I Need For Health Insurance in the USA?
The truth is that the cost of healthcare solutions in the US depends on the nature of the illness, procedure, and facility.
As a result, you can decide to check for a cheaper healthcare center to choose. In doing so, you have to consider the distance, availability, and doctors in the medical institute before you decide which policy to go with. Some facilities will charge way more for the same procedure than the hospital down the street.
How to Determine the Amount of International Health Coverage in the United States You Need
To choose the health insurance policy in the US that is the most suitable, you should consider the following things:
How long will you be staying in the country?
Do you have any underlying medical conditions?
How comfortable are you in paying above the maximum coverage amount when needed?
How much can you allocate per month for coverage?
What is the nature of your work in the US as an expatriate?
In some cases, you can also consider how easy it will be for you to return if the health situation escalates. For example, this is necessary if you have a severe medical condition wherein you need to be repatriated in case of an emergency.
You can also go for a lower insurance cover if your stay in the US is planned only for a short time or if you already have insurance coverage in your home country.
Sometimes, your job will require you to stay for a minimum number of years, depending on what is stated in the contract. In this case, you will probably be required to stay in the US for medical treatment whenever you seek a healthcare service. This will impact the cost of your health insurance in America as you will possibly pay a higher maximum coverage amount.
Costs for Acute or Emergency Care in the USA
The study carried out by the National Institute for Health suggests that the average cost of an ER visit is $1,900 to $2,100. However, this is dependent on the kind of medical emergency you are in, so you may be paying a lot more or less than this range. Generally, international insurance covers help to reduce the cost of medical services to a great extent.
How much Insurance Coverage in the United States Should Foreigners Purchase?
It is not mandatory to get health insurance for foreigners in the USA. It is up to you to decide how much insurance coverage you want to purchase in the US. Your decision is mostly dependent on how you are willing to pay based on your current health condition, nature of work, and length of stay abroad. Policy maximums typically start at as little as $50,000 per period and reach as high as $5 million. Maximums are typically per person, with some of them being uncapped or unlimited.
Final Thoughts on Getting Health Insurance in the USA
Putting it all together, insurance provides comfort. Knowing your expenses will be covered should you become ill or need emergency medical treatment is a great relief. But, the cost of an insurance policy is usually lower than out-of-pocket hospital bills you have to pay for without coverage. So, it is best to choose the insurance policy that is best suited for you whenever you are traveling to the US as a foreigner.