While internationals in the U.S. may appreciate the level of
care available in the U.S, the health care system can seem costly,
complex, and sometimes inequitable. There are various reasons
how this system developed. The net result is that health care
in the United States is not delivered through a single system
but through a variety of interrelated public and private components.
This mix of public and private elements, including insurances,
providers, and payment mechanisms is not consistent and can
How the Health Care System Relates to You
Thus, while the Health Care System in the U.S. can provide excellent
care, accessing and paying for care is probably different than
your home country. For an international visitor, it is a private
system that charges on a fee for service basis. These charges
can be very expensive and it is important to note that the individual
is responsible for the bill. As indicated above, there are public
health programs, but the public programs that exist are for
retired and those eligible for public support. These programs
are financed by taxes. Internationals in the U.S. are generally
not eligible for this support. Accepting this support can jeopardize
your status in the U.S.
It is also important to seeking care appropriately. Do not use
a hospital emergency room in a non-emergency situation.
The cost for using any hospital services is usually significantly
higher if the same care is available elsewhere in the community.
If you are a student and have access to a College/University
health care system, be aware that an institutional health service
is usually your best source of health care. It is generally:
o Less costly
o More accustomed to working with internationals
o More aware of cultural considerations
o Offers a referral system for more serious care
o Includes a cooperative effort with the Counseling Services
There are a variety of excellent public resources on health
Agency For Healthcare Research & Quality - Health
Care Guide & Tips http://www.ahrq.gov/consumer/qntool.htm
The Alliance Health Care Cooperative has put together an excellent
summary for the health care consumer, it can be found at
NAFSA: Association of International Education has an online
book "Optimizing Health Care in International Educational
Exchange" Within this book, there is a chapter on "Overcoming
Challenges in Health Care for International Students".
This can be found at http://www.nafsa.org/optimizinghealthcare/toc.html
Remember that you and your health are significant and that it
is imperative that you ask questions if you do not understand
a situation or think you have not received appropriate care.
Be prepared to speak up!
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