Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Heath Care for International Students in the USA: Tips and Terminology

By Meghavaty Suresh
Contributing Writer

Studying in the U.S. is great on many levels. It’s a different world of education when compared to many countries, especially in the east. That said, it’s important to throw some light on certain aspects of U.S. life that may be challenging for international students. One major challenge that every international student should take notice of is health care.

Health care in the U.S. is quite tricky to navigate, more often than not. It can be downright frustrating, in fact. Let’s go through a few key terms and processes so that you’ll be prepared in case you need to rely on the health care system during your time in the U.S.

Health Insurance: The most important component of the U.S. health care system is health insurance. It is imperative that you are always covered by an insurance policy. Most schools have recommended providers, and it is best to stick to them. Remember, without health insurance, your medical bills could be astronomical. Students without insurance have been known to fly back to their home countries to get treated because it’s cheaper than it is getting treated in the U.S.

University Health Center: If you do fall ill during your studies, the first place you should visit is the university health center. Most health centers on campus are well equipped with health care professionals who can help you. Your insurance policy should cover your expenses at the health center on most occasions.

Emergency Room: If you get into an accident or are very ill and can’t get to the university health center, only then should you visit the emergency room (ER) or emergency department at a hospital. Remember that in an ER the first priority is always given to those who are in life-threatening situations, and so it could be a very long wait for you if you aren’t in immediate danger as assessed by the nurse at the ER. Wait times can go on for even four or five hours at times. So be prepared. Also, ER services are quite expensive and sometimes your insurance may not cover them all; you may have to co-pay a portion of it. On the other hand, if you have a true medical emergency (as the name implies), this is the place to go, regardless of cost or insurance.

Urgent Care: An alternative to an emergency room is an urgent care clinic, or urgency room, where you will be treated immediately. It’s always good to figure out where the closest urgency room is when you get to campus. If you have a problem at a time that the on-campus health center is closed, and it’s serious but not quite an emergency, you’ll want to take advantage of urgent care services.

It’s a good idea to get your health checked out before coming to the U.S. Here are a few tips:
  • Get a complete medical check-up at home and bring copies of your medical records with you.
  • Go see the eye doctor and the dentist. This is important because most student insurance policies don’t cover dental and eye care.
  • Speak to your doctor about substitutes in the U.S. for medication that you usually take in your home country

Finally, do yourself a favor and watch this video that covers a wide variety of topics related to health care in the U.S. for international students.

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