Health insurance is important. Health insurance is REALLY important. If you’ve just arrived to the United States, then I can’t emphasize this enough. If your home country had some sort of public healthcare system you are in for a rude shock when you get here: that doesn’t exist. You need health insurance!

Right now we’re also seeing an unprecedented number of furloughs, lay-offs, redundancies and job loss due to the COVID-19 Coronavirus crisis. It’s devastating for so many and what I want to make sure of is that if you are without work, you at least have some coverage available to you in order to stay healthy and avoid any financial difficulty.

One thing to keep in mind though in the current crisis we’re all living through is that even if your city, state (or even the whole country) is covered for COVID-19 insurance, as Alastair Walton, Consul-General of Australia to New York mentioned in our recent chat, you still need health insurance for everything else in your life, just like you did before the current world events.

Why is health insurance so important?

Because everything is out of pocket.

Go to a GP for a checkup (PCP)? Money required. Get rushed to hospital in an ambulance after an emergency? You could be up for thousands, tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of dollars. The costs escalate fast and you have no option, because you may be in a critical position.

I know this is somewhat morbid, but it’s a reality that you need to face. There is no public safety-net, so if you don’t cover yourself, you will be liable for these costs and for an estimated 530,000 families every year, it sends them bankrupt. That’s how real this is.

A crash course in health insurance

I’m currently writing my own but in the meantime: here are the top 15 healthcare terms everyone should know.

Having at least this up your sleeve helps and the more knowledge you have means you’re more likely to signup for cost-effective, good insurance.

Also, the Australian Women in New York have written an AWESOME coverage all about health insurance and it’s worth the read.

Health insurance if you no longer have employer-based coverage

Unfortunately, right now this is going to be a common scenario. With health insurance closely tied to employment, with all the loss of jobs at the moment we’ll see so many go unemployed.

The first thing you should look into is COBRA.

COBRA is:

COBRA is an acronym for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, which provides eligible employees and their dependents the option of continued health insurance coverage when an employee loses their job or experiences a reduction of work hours.

There are some conditions on who can get this and it depends on your employer but basically you take both the employer’s part of your insurance, and your own, and you pay the whole lot. This gives you the high quality of coverage you have come to love, but does cost you a lot more.

Healthcare exchanges

Normally if you want to get onto the healthcare exchange, you need a special reason, but if you have lost your job due to the COVID-19 crisis, you are eligible for a special enrollment period with the exchanges (see more here).

This means you can browse through insurance that is available at HealthCare.gov and learn to compare and contrast the different offerings.

An alternative, and what I use

Personally, I now use Cigna Global, a service that exists outside of the U.S. but provides coverage inside as an expat.

I’ve found the coverage to be solid, and it covers everything related to Coronavirus symptoms and can be applied for now.

This is basically insurance that looks like travel-insurance but is not. It isn’t temporary, it’s proper health coverage, but just using an alternative method because you aren’t a citizen of the United States.

Health insurance for new arrivals to America

The first thing you should ask is: Does my employer supply health insurance.

Employer-based health insurance

This is the most common way Americans get health coverage and is the most financially responsible method in most cases. Your employer will pay a part, and you will contribute as well. Generally, this will be the “cheapest” way you can get covered and have a high-quality coverage (because your employer ensures everyone in a block which has its advantages).

If your employer does not provide coverage (or you don’t have an employer) then you have a few options.

Travel insurance (but only for a little bit)

In the very short-term, you can use travel insurance, but this is not for those who live abroad. This is for the transition period only and it’s important you know that difference.

The healthcare “exchanges”

The second option is to pick your own plan from the healthcare exchange. I’ve written about this here, and this is what I used to do myself. I had Oscar and the coverage was pretty good. I found though that I was paying more than I had to and not getting a high level of coverage through this method.

For more information head to HealthCare.gov.

An alternative, and what I use

Personally, I now use Cigna Global, a service that exists outside of the U.S. but provides coverage inside as an expat.

Instead of using the exchanges, and comparing coverage that way, I found that Cigna Global could provide me with better coverage for less money, and I jumped on it.

I have now had a doctor visit and a dentist visit, and both were completely covered by my insurance but everyone is different, do your research, and ask lots of questions!

Please note that health insurance is a giant and monstrous issue in the U.S. This article barely scrapes the surface and is just intended as an introduction. Please don’t rely on anything you read here or online anywhere. Not 100%, just use it to piece together the puzzle of your health insurance journey.

About the Author

America Josh

I had a fantastic life in Adelaide and in Australia but thought in late 2015 that it was time to do something new. I handed over control of my company, sold my house, car, and even gave away my cat (“Aslan”) to start on my journey to New York.

I arrived in New York on January 10, 2017, from Adelaide, South Australia and in March 2017, I started America Josh to help make the transition to the US from wherever you’re from just a little bit easier.

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