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Treatment in the U.S.? Without health insurance – only for the richest

Every year, over half a million families in the U.S. file for bankruptcy due to exorbitantly high medical bills. Because, for example, just getting a patient to hospital can cost up to half a million dollars! We present the absurdly high bills that Americans receive. And this despite the act that was supposed to eliminate the phenomenon of shockingly high invoices a year ago.

No country spends as much on healthcare as the U.S. In 2021, medical expenses of Americans increased by 2.7% and reached an astronomical amount of USD 4.3 trillion! That’s USD 12,914 per American! Although, it should be noted that this average is actually higher because in 2019, as many as 29 million Americans did not have any insurance policy at all and the lion’s share of them did not pay for treatment.

The largest economy in the world spends as much as 18.3% of its GDP on healthcare – this is
a monstrous amount. Almost twice as much as the average for over 40 most developed countries in the world – OECD countries. Countries in this group spend on average 9.7% of their GDP on healthcare (even before the pandemic, and only 8.8% in 2019).

100 million Americans in medical debt!

Treatment costs dearly in the U.S. So dearly that every year, as many as 56 million Americans incur debts for this purpose or are burdened with such debts by healthcare facilities. About 11 million people among them take out the so-called payday loans – high-interest (up to almost 30%) loans to repay charges on their credit cards. According to Kaiser Health News, about 100 million Americans currently have debts for medical treatment – namely almost one in three U.S. residents.

Millions of them have to cut back on food to have enough to pay such a loan instalment. According to the research by KHN and NPR, over half of Americans have had such a loan/debt for treatment in the last 5 years.

It is therefore not surprising that medical expenses are No. 1 reason for personal bankruptcies in the U.S. – they account for as much as 2/3 of all bankruptcies.

In recent years, they have been declared by … an average of 530,000 families per year! But in crisis years (e.g. 2009), this number even exceeded 830,000. Between 2006 and the end of 2021, courts granted personal bankruptcy to as many as 15.3 million Americans! What leads to such situations? The U.S. media is full of descriptions of the outrageously high, even astronomical bills received by patients. These unjustifiably large amounts are often reduced or even cancelled as a result of the actions of patients’ lawyers or the case being made public by the media. In the media, lawyers also advise what to do and how to do it so that medical service providers or insurers do not rob citizens.

USD 489,000 for air ambulance

Sean Deines lost his job as a bartender in the spring of 2020 – the pandemic broke out. He went to visit his father in the remote areas of Wyoming. He felt bad. He went to hospital in Casper and from there, he was transported by helicopter to the Colorado University Hospital. There, the initial diagnosis was confirmed: acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, a rapidly developing blood cancer. Sean decided to return to North Carolina, where he would be cared for by family and where his insurance company’s main office was located. Angel MedFlight announced that they would accept the insurer’s rates and the patient would not have to pay extra. So Sean flew with a nurse giving him oxygen on board. He was treated in hospital for a month and when he felt better, he received a bill. And he felt bad again. Very bad: USD 489,000 to pay for the flight of approx. 2.200 km. This also included about USD 70,000 for
a short distance by an ordinary ambulance – from the airport to a nearby hospital.

Horrendously high rates. As it later turned out, the ride from the airport to the hospital was 30 times more expensive than the standard rate on this route. More significantly, it turned out that Angel MedFlight operated the flight before receiving payment confirmation from the Blue Cross insurer. After the flight, the insurer did not agree to the payment, stating that it was not necessary for medical reasons. This despite the fact that the company agreed to pay without any objections for the previous flight – from Casper to Colorado, even though, the patient’s condition was better at that time. Both companies wanted Deines to pay for it. When the media – Kaiser Health News – started asking about the matter, the bills suddenly “vanished”. Both companies apologised to the patient and promised that he would not be charged with any costs.

The best thing for a trip to the U.S.? An insurance policy

Why is insurance for trips to the U.S. so important? Mainly for two reasons. First of all, your EHIC card does not protect you when travelling to the U.S. Although, basing your health protection solely on the EHIC is not the best idea even in Europe, you must remember that it is the basic form of help in case of health problems. You do not have such free help in the U.S.

Secondly, the bill for healthcare in the U.S., as we wrote, can amount to several dozen or even several hundred thousand dollars. With such high medical costs as in the U.S., insurance for medical expenses abroad should be as high as possible. When you wonder what amounts should be included in travel insurance to the U.S., the simplest answer is – as high as possible. At MediSky, our health insurance covers treatment costs of up to EUR 2 million!

Travel insurance to the U.S. – why is it so important?

Here are some numbers to show you just how costly being uninsured in the U.S. can be

You will pay on average USD 755 for a blood test and from USD 100 to even USD 1,000 for an X-ray.

If you need to undergo surgery, you will pay from USD 500 to USD 3,500 for anaesthesia alone.

Medical care for a broken arm or leg costs up to USD 2,500, while for a sprained ankle – between
USD 500 and USD 2,500.

Broken nose? You will pay from USD 500 to USD 8,000 for medical assistance.

It will cost you between USD 1,000 and USD 1,500 to visit a dentist and get a filling.

The cost of tonsillectomy ranges from approx. USD 4,150 to USD 6,380.

A tracheotomy can cost from USD 10,000 to even USD 150,000!

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