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Finding Health Insurance for The Move to America

08 May, 2013 12:06  Erin Erin

  In a new series, we are following the story of future expat Molly, a Brit who seeks to join her American husband in Ohio. At EasyExpat we try to provide you all the latest and greatest in Expat News and Resources, but sometimes a personal journey can best explain the unique challenges and triumphs involved in moving abroad. Meet Molly and follow along on her adventure in the Move to America.

the move to america health insuranceOne of the key things I have been looking into, with regards to my eventual move to the US, has been health insurance. It is not a requirement of my Spousal Petition to the US, but it is a vital part of US life as everyone at some point will need medical care. It is a very different system to the NHS in the UK and I needed to understand, as best I could, how the US system works.

I found that breaking it down into 'bite sized' information helped me sort it out in my mind. The basics, as I understand them, are as follows:

  • In the US, healthcare is mostly provided by private hospitals and clinics.
  • To have access to and pay for this private healthcare, you need health insurance.
  • Health insurance is often covered by an employer (exactly how and what is covered is dependent on what an employer offers).
  • Health insurance, as offered by an employer, usually extends to the employee's immediate family.
  • If health insurance is not offered by an employer and you are not an immediate family member of someone who is covered, you have to get it yourself through a private health insurance company.

This is by no means a comprehensive explanation, and is only based on what I understand (always research your own information as everyone's needs and experiences are different) but it helped me get to grips with it a little better.

Once I had got to grips with it, the next step was to get covered (insured). In my case, this is done through my husband's health insurance policy which is provided by his employer. Employers usually offer health insurance coverage after a certain period of employment, in my husband's case he had to be working for them for a period of 90 days before he could access it. Once the 90 days were up he was given some paperwork to fill out and make sure that he named his immediate family members (me) that were to be covered. The information the form required included his SSN (Social Security Number) and Driver's License details plus a basic health questionnaire. Once this was handed in, we were insured.

Our particular policy covers dental, vision, general (like GP visits in the UK) and emergency treatment, but not every employer or health insurance company offers the same coverage. A top tip is to always check what you will be covered for. Read all the paperwork to understand the necessary contributions as a lot of employers require employees to make a weekly contribution from their wages. My husband, for an example, pays a little over $48 a week out of his wages towards our insurance.

As part of my husband's everyday life he has been lucky enough to never have had any major problems with how health insurance is issued and what it covers, and from my perspective, I am happy with the comprehensive cover we have. My only concern is if the employer's situation changes or my husband finds a new job - this would mean a new, and more than likely, different policy which may not cover the things we have used or needed in the past. As is the case all over the world, jobs can suddenly be lost so health insurance, and subsequently medical care is not always guaranteed - it is this that is the key difference to the UK.

Overall, getting covered as a (future) expat was fairly simple for me as I am the spouse of a US citizen. That is why I am making the move to the US - to be with my husband. If you are an expat for different reasons, health insurance may not be accessed or covered in the same way so always do your research and see what different policies are offered through insurance companies or your employer (if you have one).

I hope you found my experiences of getting health insurance useful. If you have any questions or experiences to share, please leave a comment here or visit my blog http://themovetoamerica.wordpress.com/ and leave a response on there.

Health insurance is indeed a thorny issue for many expats. Molly’s experience helps highlight some of the option - and challenges - of establishing health insurance abroad. There are some public health insurance services such as Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE, the Children's Health Insurance Program, and the Veterans Health Administration. However, most of the population under 65 is insured by their or a family member's employer. Some purchase private health insurance and an alarming amount are uninsured.

For more information about healthcare, refer to EasyExpat’s expat articles on health, as well as our comprehensive city guides with sections on “Health" including How to find a General Practitioner, doctor, physician, Medicines and Hospitals, and International healthcare and Medical Insurance.

Follow along for Molly's post next month on Social Networking Abroad...



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Check with a specialist [Reply]

Great post, very clear. Personal experiences can often say a lot more than a brochure, etc.

For those making the move to US, they may want to see how their unique circumstances can influence the type of plan they need and how they can keep healthcare budgets down. Medibroker.com can advise them for free.

  Montserrat C     09 May 2013, 10:20