Health insurance : how to be covered in the USA ?

Traveling abroad, especially to the United States, should never be taken lightly, especially when it comes to choosing the right health insurance. The cost of medical care can escalate quickly, and reimbursement varies greatly depending on your insurance company or health plan.

Do not rely on the health insurance system in your home country: some countries do not have the same advantages as others. In the USA, you will surely miss the French social security system, as well as the European Health Insurance Card! In this article, we give you our advice before leaving for the USA, whether for a short or long stay on American soil. Anticipate this procedure well before your departure, because the subject is vast and complex, certainly more so than for foreigners in France.

Civil liability, expatriation insurance, comprehensive insurance…: it’s hard to find your way around!

It is better to spend some time on an insurance comparison before rushing into signing a contract and taking out insurance that is too expensive and not adapted to your project. In the United States, the health system is said to be “mutualist”, i.e. private (except for MEDICAID and MEDICARE). So forget about solidarity contributions in France to reimburse medical expenses: it’s more the “every man for himself” principle!

Just as there is a USA visa for every profile (foreign students, artists, interns, globetrotters…), medical assistance and health insurance services for the USA are adapted to the applicant, his budget and his needs. Prior to 2014 and Obamacare, an American was not required to have health insurance. From now on, everyone must protect themselves through a subscribed offer. The best thing to do is to contact the different insurers to determine the most appropriate insurance.

To give an idea, according to a 2015 study, health insurance cost $17,454 per year for a family of 4; $5,000 of that was deductible, meaning the family had to pay that amount before any reimbursement. The deductible amount of hospitalization expenses is quite high, so it is essential to have money available in your bank account at all times.

Even though the subject is delicate to discuss, don’t neglect repatriation insurance in the event of a family member’s death. You should also know that the principle of the death benefit of the French health insurance is not valid in the USA.

Note: take a look at your bank card before your expatriation (e.g. Visa Premier or Gold Mastercard). This can include medical repatriation assistance or even private life liability that extends abroad.

Study the health insurance contracts carefully to find out the real costs to be paid

There are many elements of the contract that determine the out-of-country medical expenses you will incur. In the U.S., check for “Copay” (amount to be paid in all cases), “Out of pocket maximum” (ceiling), “Deductible” (deductible), “exclusions” or “network” (physician networks). All of this will help you to better understand your coverage in case of an accident in life.

To limit the risks, we recommend selecting a total coverage (care, medication, repatriation, hospitalization). Sometimes, it is even more financially interesting to be repatriated to France for treatment.

On the other hand, be careful with all expatriate insurances: since the implementation of Obamacare, it is necessary to verify that an international insurance is compatible with the new American system, under penalty of having to pay. However, this compatibility is far from being systematic.

In addition to health insurance in the United States, and for your stay abroad in general, also inquire about home insurance, legal assistance and travel assistance that can protect your personal belongings. Finally, consider trip cancellation insurance, just in case. Some structures, such as Chapka assurances or Mondial assistance (now Allianz travel), propose grouped offers. Contact them or ask an insurance broker to assist you in your efforts. It is best to get advice before starting an internship abroad, for example, or a semester of study.

Don’t hesitate to do some research on the Internet if your world tour doesn’t involve going through the United States. Each country has its own particularities in terms of accident insurance, transport costs or expat insurance!