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 be confusing.

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 care, including:

Agency For Healthcare Research & Quality -  Health Care Guide & Tips http://www.ahrq.gov/consumer/qntool.htm  & http://www.ahrq.gov/consumer/qntlite/qntlite.htm#choosing

The Alliance Health Care Cooperative has put together an excellent summary for the health care consumer, it can be found at  http://www.alliancehealthcoop.com/ReportsResources/ConsumerToolkit/SavvyConsumer.pdf

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! 

Note:   This site provides links to outside sites and information not developed by the Compass Benefits Group. Compass and its affiliates are not responsible or liable for the content, accuracy or privacy practices of, and assume no responsibility for any circumstances arising out of the use, misuse, interpretation or application of any information or other material provided on outside sites
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