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Where Can Non US Citizens, Without Health Insurance, Find Low Cost Health Care

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If you are a non-resident expat living in the USA, and are in need of medical assistance, and without health insurance, you could find yourself in a very expensive predicament. However, if you know where to look it is possible to find free or low cost hea

If you are a non US citizen, foreign national, living in the USA, whether temporarily or permanently, and you find yourself without health insurance, don’t despair. If you know where to look, free or low cost medical services and chronic disease screening programs are available.

The United States is the only industrialized nation without some form of socialized health care. Yes, the USA does have the best hospitals and facilities, with little or no waiting for treatment, but it also has the highest prices for health care. In fact, health insurance in the United States is by far the most expensive in the world. The average monthly premium for a family in 2009 was $527.33. And that does not include out of pocket expenses such as deductibles and co-payments. Prescription medications are also outrageously expensive; my advice, buy generic and get your prescriptions sent from Canada, its much cheaper. This can come as a shock to many foreigners who find the US health care system complicated and annoying. Also, if you are from a country that has a universal health care system, such as the United Kingdom, where most of your medical needs are covered, free of charge, you will find it hard to adjust. And without health insurance you could quickly find yourself in dept.

In the US a trip to your local family practice physician, general practitioner in the UK, could cost upwards of eighty dollars and a single visit to the emergency room, without treatment, costs around $500. The cost also depends on your location. For example, the same treatment in Texas would cost considerably more in New York. And if you need to be hospitalized, the bill could run into five figures. By simply knowing your options and what’s available you could save yourself thousands of dollars and a lot of stress.

Medicaid: As a non US resident you cannot apply for Medicaid, unless you have a medical emergency. However, as soon as you apply to become a US resident, you are eligible to apply for Medicaid, and it is a good idea to do so, provided you meet certain criteria. Visit your local health department to find information.

Free Clinics: In the USA the National Association of Free clinics is a non profit organization that offers a range of health services. For a nominal fee patients can receive medical assistance. Services will be provided, regardless of whether the patient has the ability to pay. The service relies on volunteers and public donations. It is possible to make donations through the associations website.

Free Prostrate Cancer Testing: If you are a male over the age of 45, or you are over 40 and have higher risk factors for developing prostrate cancer, such as family history, you should be tested for prostate cancer every year. If you do not have health insurance and do not qualify for Medicaid you can receive free testing by Zero-The Project to End Prostrate Cancer. The drive against prostate cancer is a mobile screening program that regularly visits towns and cities across the USA. Check the website to find out when they will be in your area. The program's ultimate goal is to drastically reduce rates of prostate cancer through awareness, education and screening.

Emergency Room Visit: In the USA, if you have a medical emergency and need to visit a hospital emergency room the hospital cannot, by law, refuse you emergency treatment, regardless of whether or not you have health insurance. What most people don’t known is that due to international mutual agreements between countries, health departments in the USA have funds which cover the cost of emergency treatment for overseas visitors. Hospital financial departments would never disclose this information for fear of abuse. Trying to get non-emergency, outpatient treatment without health insurance is another matter.

When you receive the bill for services, visit the hospitals financial department and explain that you are a non-resident, temporarily residing in the US. You should also make this clear when you first visit the emergency room and are asked whether or not you have insurance. Worst case scenario your bill should be drastically reduced.

And finely, if you want to avoid the headache and possible finacial hardship that can occur whilst living in the USA without health insurance, you can always purchase an international health insurance plan, such as those provided by CIGNA. Choosing a higher deductable would reduce the premiums, and the cost is sigificantly lower than health insurance bought in the USA.  

Primary image; flickr.com by Leoncillo.      

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Peter Bilton
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Posted on Jun 12, 2011
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Posted on Apr 12, 2011

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Peter Bilton

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