One of the most frequent questions that come to mind when traveling to the United States for the first time is: do I need health insurance? The answer is clear and forceful: yes, you need it! Of course, it is not mandatory (you can travel to the US without health insurance), but it is highly recommended since the costs of any small incident could be a prohibitive outlay. In this post, we explain how the health system works in the USA and we guide you so that you can hire the best travel insurance for the USA.
Why do you need travel insurance for the USA
If you are still not sure whether or not you should take out medical insurance to travel to the United States, in the next two sections we will explain why we believe it is essential. As we said, it is not mandatory to enter the country or anything like that; it is only an economic question. Although most trips tend to pass without accidents, any misfortune in the United States can be a real ruin if you do not have insurance to cover the costs.
How the health system works in the US
As you know, the United States lacks a public health system as we understand it in Spain (something similar to Social Security). Some state plans, such as Medicaid or Medicare, cover the most disadvantaged people or certain groups (such as those over 65), as long as they are eligible for these programs. However, most citizens (they and/or their companies) pay for private health insurance that covers a good part of their medical expenses. Anyway, about 16% of the population lacks any type of insurance and they are forced to pay real money for each visit, test, or medicine (if they can).
Tourists, for their part, are responsible for their health and for taking out medical insurance before traveling to the United States if they want to avoid surprises. In some very rare cases, Medicaid may cover all or part of the costs of emergency care for nonresident aliens, but it is better not to have this unlikely help.
How much does health care cost in the United States?
It is impossible to give an exact reference to the costs of being treated in a hospital in the United States since it depends on each state, the type of treatment, the hospital fees (which are not usually in the public domain), the time spent recovering and a long etcetera. In fact, it is a fairly opaque issue and patients often cannot know the cost of their interventions until they receive the invoice. According to this news from CNBC, 66.5% of bankruptcies of individuals in the country are due to problems related to the high costs of healthcare.
Browsing the net you will find many articles that explain how much medical care costs in the US, but if you look closely, the vast majority of these contents have been published by insurance companies and do not cite any official source or independent studies. Insurers are interested in raising alarms about the cost of treatment to sell you their insurance and these figures are not very reliable. But the reality is scary enough without having to exaggerate it …
Cost of a medical consultation
How much does a routine visit to a doctor cost in the US? According to a study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health published in 2015, the average cost of a visit was $ 160 at the time (among uninsured patients) and almost double for a specialist. And to this price, we would have to add the possible “extra” that would entail performing any medical test such as blood tests (from $ 5 to $ 50), electrocardiograms (from $ 50 to $ 150), X-rays ($ 300 to $ 750 ) or MRIs (from $ 500 to $ 1,500), according to some examples from this website.
Cost of an emergency visit
In 2013 the Public Library of Science (PLOS) published the following list with the average costs of emergency visits based on the analysis of more than 8,000 cases.
- Sprains and strains: $ 1,051 (maximum $ 24,000)
- Other injuries: $ 1,150 (maximum $ 27,000)
- Open limb injuries: $ 980 (maximum $ 25,000)
- Normal pregnancy and / or delivery: $ 1,200 (maximum $ 18,000)
- Headache: $ 1,200 (maximum $ 17,000)
- Back problems: € 870 (maximum $ 10,000)
- Respiratory infection: $ 740 (maximum $ 17,000)
- Kidney stone: $ 3,437 (maximum $ 39,408)
- Intestinal infection: $ 1,354 (maximum $ 29,551)
Although the study was published in 2013, the data was from 2006-2008, so you can already imagine the increase in costs from then until now. At that time the average price of an ER visit was $ 1,233. Imagine today! And those prices do not include long-term treatments, income (which can be several thousand dollars a night), or ambulance transfers (between $ 400 and $ 1,800).
Cost of treatment with hospital admission
If things get ugly and you need to be admitted to a hospital, then the bill is going to be really expensive. According to debt.org, the median price of a day of admission to a US hospital was $ 3,949 in 2017 and the median cost of stays was $ 15,734. As early as 2013, a more detailed analysis by the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) pointed to an average of $ 10,000 of spending per income. In that same publication they revealed the average cost of some of the most common treatments:
- Heart attack: $ 20,246
- Septicemia: $ 18,031
- Respiratory problems: $ 17,868
- Lower limb fractures: $ 16,796
- Abdominal hernia: $ 14,447
- Minor fractures: $ 14,149
- Gastrointestinal disorders: $ 11,564
- Nervous system disorders: $ 11,538
- Pneumonia: $ 9,793
Here you can see the complete list of the 35 most common diseases and the cost of their treatments.
How much does insurance cost to travel to the US?
Taking into account, as we have just seen, that a medical consultation could cost us about $ 160, an emergency visit would not go below $ 1,000 and a treatment that requires admission would entail a bill of no less than $ 10,000, with figures of up to $ 60,000 $ in the most serious cases (and let’s not talk about repatriations, helicopter evacuations, medicalized planes, expenses of relatives or companions, etc.), any medical insurance for a trip to the United States is relatively “cheap”. The cheapest ones cost around € 20 / week and the most complete ones up to € 80 / week.
Factors that influence the price of travel insurance
- Travel time
- Coverages included
- Limits of each coverage
- Country of residence of the insured
- Coverage area (in this case, USA)
- Number of insured and ages
- Extras (adventure sports, cancellation, etc.)
- The reputation of the cía. insurance carrier
Perhaps two of the most important aspects of this list are the limits of the coverage (because, in fact, almost all insurance offers the same) and the reputation, quality, or reliability of each insurance company. Because if we are paying to be calm, we better have reliable insurance that, if necessary, can really cover high medical expenses and take care of everything quickly and efficiently.
Average price of insurance to travel to the United States
Based on searches carried out in different insurers and comparators, we have prepared this basic reference table. The price range is per person, without adding “cancellation”.
|Type / duration||1 week||15 days||1 month|
|Low-cost||€ 18- € 25||20-30 €||€ 30-40|
|Standard||€ 30- € 45||€ 35- € 55||€ 40-70|
|Full||€ 50-80||€ 70-€ 100||€ 80-140|
The cheapest insurances usually offer medical coverage between € 3,500 and $ 10,000. This could be enough for small incidents, but for moderately serious interventions they would fall short.
What coverage should a US insurance have?
When hiring travel insurance for the United States (or anywhere else) you will always find a breakdown of covered guarantees (or coverages) grouped into different concepts, which will normally be:
- Medical assistance, transfers, and repatriation
- Delays and losses
- Cancellation (usually optional)
- Personal accidents
- Civil liability and legal defense
In the case of the USA, the care section is the most important given the high cost of any medical intervention, from a simple consultation to a surgical operation with hospital admission. Our recommendation is that the minimum covered medical expense is $ 100,000.
In this first point, it is also important to check that repatriation expenses due to death or the transfer of patients are included, both of those affected and of the rest of the insured, and early return due to serious causes. Ideally, the expenses (or part of them) of family travel in the event of serious illness, accident, or death should also be covered.
Regarding the accident section, the cheapest insurance does not usually include compensation for death or disability, which can reach up to € 50,000 in the case of more comprehensive insurance.
Other extras that may be interesting are dental coverage or rescue expenses, usually not included in the most basic packages.
Of course, there are many more coverages that must be taken into account before contracting travel insurance, but most are self-explanatory and do not seem so sensitive in the case of the USA.
What is the best travel insurance for the United States
Well, now that you know how much health care costs in the US and you know some important details about travel insurance, its coverage, and price range … what travel insurance should you take out and where? Of course, you will not find an objective answer (we will return to this point below), but if you want our opinion, the best value for money will be found in Mondo, a Spanish insurance brokerage that offers four types of products:
Mondo is a kind of comparator that works with the best insurance companies (Arag, AXA, ERV, Zurich, Europ Assistance, etc.) and offers you the best options in each case. Within the category “coverage for a trip”, which is the most common, they distinguish between three types of trips that go from the most economical to the most complete: “tranquility trip”, “top trip” and “premium trip”. In the case of the United States, even the simplest product already includes up to € 100,000 of medical expenses. In other insurance comparators, you can find cheaper prices but look at the limit of medical expenses and the company that offers them … surely they are not comparable.
All packages also include the repatriation or medical transfer of the sick, injured or deceased, the early return due to the death or hospitalization of a relative, and the early return due to serious damage to the main home or professional premises of the insured, in addition to the displacement of a relative or companion in case of hospitalization or death of the insured. They are basic questions that you will always have covered.
In the case of the United States, the price range of insurance is between € 45 and € 80 for trips of 2 weeks, and in a range of € 80 to € 140 for traveling 1 month (per person). In all cases you can optionally add cancellation coverage, which will increase the price depending on the amount you need to insure.
Additional advantages of Mondo
In addition to offering high-quality insurance at very reasonable prices, what sets Mondo apart from other insurers is its wide range of benefits. And it really is a company that does not stop innovating. Some of the most outstanding, today, are:
- Assistance 24h / 365 days
- Own app with 24h medical chat, free assistance call, and incident management
- Policy “no advance money”
- Customer service by WhatsApp to answer questions
- Money-back guarantee (* with conditions, before the trip)
- Simple and fast online quotation and contracting process
- Possibility of customizing some coverage
- Possibility of adding special coverage (adventure sports, computer equipment, etc.)
- Hiring or renewal during the trip
In our experience, one of the most interesting features of the app, from where you can manage everything related to insurance. In our case, during the trip to the US, we had to use it for medical consultations and they treated us quickly and efficiently. We even asked them to help us with some very technical translations of the drugs and it was very helpful.
How to buy insurance for the United States
Contracting the Best travel insurance for the USA on the Mondo website is very simple. From this page you have to click on “see prices” and you will enter directly into the insurance calculation process. You can complete all the steps without obligation and decide if you are interested in the end. To do this, you just have to spend a few minutes completing the following information:
- Type of trip (if it is for a one-off trip if it is for a whole year or if you only need cancellation insurance)
- In the case of “punctual travel”, which is the most common, you must select your country of origin (legal residence) and the area where you want it to cover you (your destination)
- Start and end date of the trip (even if you are already traveling)
- Number of travelers who need insurance and email (to send the budget)
- Choose the ideal insurance for you (usually to choose between three, from least to most complete)
- Once you have chosen the product, you must fill in the details of the insured …
- … And pay (only cards)