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What Expats Need to Know about Healthcare in the US vs. the UK

What Expats Need to Know about Healthcare in the US vs. the UK

Photo courtesy of Big Stock Photo

Relocating to the U.S. can be a wonderful experience, but it can also be nerve-wracking and stressful. Whether you are moving for work, family, or personal reasons, it is nonetheless a huge decision and there are many considerations to be made, one of which being how your health will be protected should something unexpected occur during your initial stay.

In terms of healthcare, it is easy to assume that because you never had any issues in your home country with receiving treatment and coverage when needed, you won’t face any discrepancies upon moving. However, it is important to note that this isn’t at all the case. The cost and quality of healthcare greatly varies from country to country and to be more specific, the United States healthcare system is vastly different from many other countries, especially from that of the United Kingdom.

The British National Healthcare System

The British National Healthcare system is a publicly funded and administered system that is free to its citizens at the point of access and paid for through taxation. In the UK, an equal percentage is taken out of each individual’s income and allocated to their healthcare. While the percentage is relatively high, no one is turned away for treatment. While it isn’t technically free, healthcare in the UK is relatively affordable in contrast to many other healthcare systems around the globe. Although the system of social insurance possesses many similarities to Social Security and Medicare in the U.S., it mainly operates on the belief that healthcare is a right as opposed to a privilege.

The U.S. Healthcare System

In contrast to the UK’s system of social insurance, the U.S. healthcare system is vastly different. Under Obamacare in the U.S., insurance coverage is a mandatory requirement for all individuals, and it doesn’t come cheap. While out of pocket expenses for treatments and services in the UK are known to be relatively low, a single procedure at a doctor’s office or hospital in the U.S. can be vastly more expensive, even with coverage under an insurance policy. Even then, not all services are covered, and coverage can greatly vary from company to company. Because the U.S. is a capitalist nation, pricing in the medical industry is not regulated, meaning two different doctors or hospitals have the right to charge their own fixed amounts for treatments and services due to their own set of extraneous factors.

British Expats: Making the Move to the U.S.

Based on the vast amount of differences between the two healthcare systems, coming to the U.S. from the UK can be a bit of a shock as among other things, expats are faced with a whole new healthcare structure that now comes with an additional cost. Furthermore, as a British expat first arriving in the U.S., there will likely be a specified waiting period before you will even be able to enroll in domestic health care, as you will not be initially eligible.

Based on the fact that health care in the U.S. is known to be extremely expensive with lack of coverage, it is imperative that you obtain a travel medical insurance policy as supplemental security while getting situated. Instances such as unexpected illnesses, injuries, or accidents can easily occur at any time and it is important to note that even one short trip to a doctor or hospital can leave you with large medical bills and high out-of-pocket expenses. For this reason, bridging the gap with a supplemental insurance solution is crucial in not only protecting your health and well-being, but also your finances during your initial stay in the U.S. Once such company, VisitorsCoverage, is a great resource for all travel insurance and temporary insurance solutions.

While moving to the U.S. can be a large adjustment especially in regards to the healthcare system, any risks you are faced with can easily be protected through various necessary precautions. Doing ample research on the U.S. healthcare system in general, being cautious about selecting your domestic insurance policy as well as your primary doctor when you are eligible to do so, and of course, securing yourself with an adequate travel medical insurance policy while waiting for eligibility will help alleviate much of the stress associated with your initial stay in the U.S.

  • Steve_7

    “there will likely be a specified waiting period” – bollocks, you can sign up for an ACA plan via immediately. New immigrants are always eligible for special enrollment periods. The only exception is for asylum seekers who have to wait 180 days.

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