How Much Health Insurance Cover do I Need in the USA?
We often get asked, “what are the typical costs for medical expenses at US healthcare facilities or hospitals?”. People ask this as they want to know how much insurance coverage to buy (the maximum coverage or benefit amount per policy period) when traveling to the USA, as a visitor or an expatriate. Unfortunately, this is not an easy question to answer. Healthcare costs in the US vary by illness, procedure and healthcare facility. The costs of treating different illnesses vary significantly. Treating a fever is less expensive than removing a kidney stone. Some facilities will charge dramatically more for a procedure than the hospital down the street.
How to Determine the Amount of International Health Coverage You Need
There are a lot of factors to consider, including how long you will be staying (a more extended stay might require a higher maximum coverage amount) and how comfortable you are with paying above the max coverage amount if you have to.
You might also want to consider how easy it would be for you to return to your home country should you need additional services. If you do not need to stay in the US for extended care and have free insurance in your home country, you can get by with a lower maximum coverage amount. However, if your job or personal situation requires that you remain in the US for treatment, you would need to consider higher maximum coverage amounts.
Costs for Acute or Emergency Care in the USA
People also ask how much it will cost for an emergency room visit. According to a National Institute for Health study, “The average cost of a visit to the ER for over 8,000 patients across the U.S. was $2,168. But the interquartile range (IQR), which represents the difference between the 25th and 75th percentile of charges, was $1,957 — meaning many patients were paying a lot more or a lot less than that.”
The chart to the right shows some of the variations you see at different hospitals and clinics for various illnesses (Minimum and Maximum charges) by illness. One benefit of working with an international health insurance provider is that they will often be able to direct you to the best healthcare facility at the lowest prices. In many cases, you can receive treatment from your doctor at his office or clinic, and it can be 3-4 times less expensive than obtaining that same treatment (from the same doctor) in a hospital!
So, How much Emergency Medical Coverage Should Short-Term Visitors to the U.S. Purchase?
Buying health insurance is a personal decision. First consider the issues outlined above (risks, length of stay, ability to return home, etc.) and then consider how much you can afford to pay. Policy maximums typically start at as little as $50,000 per policy period (maximums are typically per person) and can be as high as $5 million; some are uncapped or unlimited. Some guidelines:
- 5 days to 1 month, we recommend $50,000 – $100,000 in medical coverage
- One month to 3 months, we suggest $100,000-$500,000
- For three months or longer, $250,000 or more.
Of course, if you are older or have more people in your family traveling, the risks are more significant so you might consider higher limits.
Also, make sure you choose the right type of plan. We offer short-term Travel Medical (typically for travel less than a year or two) and long-term Global Medical (for those moving abroad for multiple years) plans.
Cost of International Medical Insurance Plans in the USA
The cost of these plans varies greatly.
- Short-term travel medical plans start at about $1.50 per day and can be as high as $10+ per day for older clients or higher end coverage.
- Global Medical plans offer very affordable catastrophic coverage (only covering the worst case scenarios) to high value comprehensive medical plans. Our most affordable plans cost $400 – $500 per year, and we have plans that would cost as much as $30,000 – $40,000 per year.
Below we offer a couple of links to allow you to generate some quick no-obligation quotes:
- Short-Term Travel Medical: Free Quote (Covers emergency medical issues plus other travel benefits)
- Long-Term Global Medical: Free Quote (Comprehensive annually renewal medical coverage)
Insurance provides a level of comfort; You know your expenses will be covered should you become ill or need emergency medical care. That comfort comes with a price. Before making the decision, you will also want to compare international health plan benefits and exclusions by the provider.
If you need assistance, our licensed insurance agents are available to walk you through the process, explain the differences among providers and help you apply.
- Health Insurance for Americans Abroad
- Insurance for Visitors to a Foreign Country
- Health Insurance for Expats in the USA
- Safety and Travel Insurance Advice in the USA
Written by Joe Cronin. Joe Cronin is an expert in the areas of global health and international insurance, with specific expertise in advising individuals and groups on international health insurance plans. Follow Joe @Joe_Cronin_Jr