Student Health Services
Holloway Hall

Health Care in the United States: A Guide for International Students

How is healthcare paid for in the United States?

There is no universal national health care insurance plan in the United States. Americans must arrange for their own health insurance; most do so through their employers or by purchasing private policies for themselves and their families. You are responsible for payment of your health care costs, just like everyone else in the United States. Students and their family members have always been required to show that they have the means to be self-supporting during their stay in this country. However, in the present political and legal environment, the issue of whether a non-citizen will become a public charge – legally defined as a person dependent upon charity – is applied today much more strictly than in years past.

What are the costs associated with healthcare in the United States?

Health care in the United States is modern and scientific. Physicians, nurse practitioners, other healthcare providers, clinics, and pharmaceutical companies seek the newest and most advanced treatments. Patients expect their healthcare providers to use the most modern methods of diagnosis and treatment, so their symptoms can be identified and their illnesses treated quickly and effectively.

Health care is very expensive in the United States. Health care costs, including hospital and clinic charges and doctors', as well as other providers’ fees, are determined by market conditions. Treatment is provided on a “fee for service” basis. Payment is due when the service is rendered, using personal funds or previously purchased health insurance.

Can international students use Medicaid and Other Public Benefits?

It is a violation of immigration law for non-immigrants (including F-1, F-2 students and dependents) to accept public assistance. In some cases, accepting such assistance could prevent you from securing a visa abroad or reentering the United States. In some cases, you may be refused medical care and services if you are unable to pay for them.

Do not accept public benefits, such as Medicaid. That has been a consistent message from the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the U.S. Department of State for many years. Now there are even tighter restrictions due to Congress' recent enactment of the Welfare-Reform and Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Acts.

All non-citizens, such as international students, scholars, and their dependents, are now barred from federal benefit programs such as Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), Medicaid, and food stamps. Virtually all public benefits are prohibited except for Emergency Medicaid -- but beware of that too! Despite the fact that well-meaning employees of medical and social service offices sometimes encourage students or their spouses to accept Emergency Medicaid funds to defray child-birth costs, the consequences of accepting public funds may be that these individuals are barred from returning to the U.S. after a trip abroad. The most obvious way to avoid a financial situation where you are tempted to apply for these funds is to maintain adequate health insurance.

Information Taken From: Antioch University New England