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Consider this before moving to the US

If you are considering moving to the US, there are a number of things you should know. One is how health insurance works and the options available to you.

Posted on Apr 12, 2016 by Rob McBroom

Whether you are a local resident who has decided to emigrate to the US, a student who will be studying there, or an expat who will be moving there for work, you will likely notice a stark difference in the way health care and insurance operate in the country. The biggest difference many who either visit or move to the country comment on is the price of care and insurance.

As Pacific Prime reported in our Cost Of Health Insurance report last year, the US has by far the most expensive health insurance in the world. According to the report, the average price of International health insurance plans in the US in 2015 was USD 21,892 per plan, per year. This is over USD 11,000 higher than the same type of plan sold in China.

Why is this cost so high? It's primarily due to the cost of health care in the country. In the US, healthcare is not subsidized by the government which means that anyone seeking care will pay full-price, which according to Forbes was forecasted to be USD 10,000 per person on average in 2015. This high cost is well known, and many moving to China have asked our health insurance experts two questions, that we believe all people moving to the US should know the answer to:


1. How can I afford healthcare in the US?


Read any news from the US and you will quickly come to realize that this is a serious issue faced by many currently living in the country. In order to offset the costs, most people in the US will secure a health insurance policy via their company. However, with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly referred to as Obamacare, in 2010, insurance is now legally attainable by almost anyone living in the US.  

As we stated above, holding health insurance has become essential primarily due to the cost of health care in the country. Just how much you can pay can come as quite a shock the first time you visit a doctor. For example, the New York Times compared the cost of care in various countries back in 2013 and found that an M.R.I. scan in the US costs an average of USD 1,121 while it costs only USD 319 in the Netherlands. For large surgeries like a hip replacement, you are looking at an average of USD 40,364 while in Spain the same surgery will cost USD 7,731.

Simply put, health insurance will be necessary if you plan to move to the US. Those visiting will also need to consider securing insurance as well, as emergency medical costs can quickly turn a good trip bad. For example, according to the Atlantic, you can expect to pay at least USD 2,000 to visit the emergency room. This average does not include medication or visits to specialists which could easily push your bill much, much higher.


2. What are my health insurance options?


Like all things in the US, there are a wide variety of health insurance options available to anyone who will be moving or visiting the US. For those visiting from China, you can secure short-term travel insurance that will last for the duration of your visit. This insurance will usually cover emergency care and transportation back to China where you can use existing health insurance to cover the rest of your treatment and recovery in China. Of course, international health insurance with coverage in the US is also available.

If you are a student or your child will be going to school in the US, you have a couple of options available. The first, most universities and colleges offer their students health insurance through their student unions; this coverage will be available to all students enrolled full time. The downside to this care is that there may be strict coverage limits attached or high deductibles which means you will likely need to pay out of pocket for anything beyond basic care. The second option is to secure international health insurance. With plans available that offer higher claims limits and generally better coverage, any care should be covered while you are at school. On the plus side, you will also be able to visit hospitals back home which is beneficial for any student, as university sponsored health insurance likely will not cover care out of state let alone out of the country.

Those moving to the US for work, be aware that all residents (American or otherwise) are legally required to have health insurance in the US. You will be asked to prove that you have secured adequate insurance when you file taxes. Most residents will have ACA compliant plans via their company as it is legally required for businesses to offer health insurance coverage to most staff members. The problem is, plan limits can be quite low and carry deductibles could be in the thousands of dollars. Combine this with the fact that coverage may only be for the state you are living in, or just the US. If you will be traveling for work, or returning home regularly, the better option would be to secure a more robust private health insurance plan that offers worldwide coverage.

Finally, if you have dependents or family members who will not be working, but will be living with you, you will be able to apply for Medicaid or Medicare. Medicaid plans are designed by the US government for people without income to be able to receive basic health care while Medicare plans are designed for those over the age of 65, or people who have a disability.  

If however, you are moving to the US to either be a contractor or on the High Net Worth Visa scheme you will be required to secure your own health insurance. If you do not secure adequate insurance you will be fined either USD 695 per person, or 2.5% of your annual household income, whichever comes first. Combine this with the cost of health care and securing health insurance starts to look like the right thing to do.

Should you be moving to the US in the near future and want to secure worldwide health insurance coverage, talk to the experts at Pacific Prime. We can help identify a plan that will meet your coverage needs.


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