Healthcare in the USA

Healthcare in the USA is a huge, efficient, advanced and expensive system. You can find physicians, clinics and hospitals throughout the country, even in the most remote areas. Equipment and facilities are state-of-the-art; doctors, nurses and surgeons are highly trained. In fact 34 of the top 50 ranked hospitals in the world are located in the United States. But all this comes at a price. Healthcare fees in the US are among the most expensive in the world. In the land of the free, nothing is free - not even emergency treatment.

However, unlike countries with public or government-run healthcare schemes, the medical system in the U.S. is private so access to care and treatment is immediate with no interference from government panels and no long waiting periods or "lines" for treatment. Access to certain hospitals or doctors is usually determined by whether a particular doctor or hospital participates in the patient's health insurance carrier's network of providers or accepts the patient's health insurance carrier for billing.

The billing of medical services can be complicated with prices for services differing depending on many factors such as the region of the country, type of hospital or provider and which insurance carrier is paying the bill.

In general, care received in large cities and large university medical systems may be more costly than care received in a local, general community hospital. So, for example, a hip replacement performed in a hospital in New York City will likely cost more than the same procedure in Dallas, Texas. The quality of care, however, is fairly consistent across the entire country.

While expansive, there's no doubt that for newcomers and visitors to the U.S., the system can be confusing. In short, if you require medical treatment in the US expect to receive some of the finest care in the world - and pay the highest price.

Staying healthy

No special vaccines are required for travel to the US although it's a good idea to be up-to-date on routine immunisations. Routine vaccinations are required for school age children attending public and private schools within the United States.

In addition to the usual common ailments there are some infectious diseases that are uncommon outside North America. These include Lyme Disease which is transmitted by deer ticks and is mostly found in the Northeastern part of the country, especially New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Cases usually occur in late Spring and Summer and can easily be avoided by thoroughly checking for ticks after you've been outdoors.

Doctors and hospitals

One of the first things you will want to organise on arrival in the US is a doctor for you and your family. As with all things American there's a huge choice - from General Practitioners, Family Practitioners and Primary Care Physicians to specialists such as cardiologists, dermatologists and paediatricians. In the U.S., it is recommended that you establish a relationship with a personal doctor, such as a family practitioner or an internist, in advance of requiring care. A personal doctor will care for you and other adults in your family, including routine physical exams, sick visits and follow-up care, as well as information and guidance in selecting specialist(s) for your care. In addition, you may wish to select specialists to treat your children (paediatricians) as well as adult women (obstetricians/gynaecologists). A good tip is to find a doctor who will best look after you and your family based on age, requirements and your medical background. If you call our international health advisors we will be able to help you find a suitable doctor. A good tip is to find a doctor who will best look after you and your family based on age, requirements and your medical background. If you call CIGNA & CMC's international health advisors we will be able to help you find a suitable doctor.

On your first visit to any doctor or specialist you'll be asked to provide personal details such as your social security number and health insurance information as well as be ready to provide your complete medical history. Your doctor or specialist will want to know about any conditions you may have, prior surgeries or procedures and any current symptoms you may be experiencing.

A visit to a doctor in the US is more likely to end with a referral to a hospital for tests or outpatient treatment than in any other country. With access to care so readily available, it is not uncommon for American physicians to order tests or refer patients to specialists for follow-up on concerns or issues uncovered during routine visits.

Rest assured, American hospitals are very good and well-equipped. All basic and most intermediate services are available in most hospitals and urgent care centres. Highly specialized services may not be available in very rural or remote areas but are usually available in the closest city. Waiting times in emergency rooms can be longer in hospitals in large cities. It is always best to see your primary or family doctor for all non-emergency and routine issues and use hospital emergency rooms only in urgent and emergency situations. In an emergency you can call for police, ambulance or firefighters by dialling 911. You will be taken to the nearest hospital for treatment.

If it is your decision whether or not to go into hospital check you are covered under the terms of your insurance and take proof of the policy to the hospital. If in doubt always call us.

If you are admitted, the cost of your stay will be covered by your insurance and payment will usually be made directly by the insurance company. Depending on the type of insurance coverage you have, you may be responsible for a portion of the bill. If so, the hospital will send you a bill after you are discharged.



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