Healthcare in America

Last updated: January 23, 2020

Healthcare in America is very different to the NHS in the UK. There is no universal healthcare provided by the government, and indeed it is well known that healthcare in America is very costly. Below you can find the information that you need to know about the US healthcare system and what you need to prepare.

Healthcare in the USA

Healthcare in the UK is very simple, often when you arrive at the doctors or hospital you only have to say your name, date of birth and address and you can be seen to at no cost.  Instead, in the US, it is recommended to have health insurance to protect you from owing a lot of money to doctors or hospitals if you get sick or hurt. You will then receive most of your care from your primary care provider (PCP), who you choose from your insurance company’s network. You will be asked for your insurance policy and to fill out a form explaining the reason you are visiting the healthcare centre.

One of the key features of healthcare in America is that there there are a wide variety of good doctors and a high quality service available at short notice. Unfortunately, other side of the coin is that only 58% of the population have private healthcare meaning that the other 42% of people can’t afford even basic healthcare. There is an Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, which has recently come into place, however, this is currently being debated.

Healthcare in America

Health Insurance in America

Unfortunately, there is no reciprocal health agreement between the USA and the UK therefore you will need to take out insurance when moving to the USA. Without insurance you are leaving yourself exposed to paying almost extortionate amounts of money on hospital fees or even risk being treated with worse care. Often patients are not treated without prior payment or evidence of insurance.

Additionally, it is vital to keep all receipts in order to make an insurance claim.


Private health insurance is very expensive, meaning that it is a staple of the middle class. Health insurance costs approximately £600 per month for a basic plan. The cost of health insurance is often deducted from your salary however different healthcare packages can be arranged with your employer. The price of your insurance premiums can vary significantly based on your own healthcare up to almost £5000 per month. You can be reimbursed up to £200,000 by your insurance company.


The USA is making strides when it comes to public healthcare. Although the most popular system of healthcare in America is private care there are the following options which are explained below:

  • Medicaid: mainly allocated to families with low economic resources. These programs are administered by each state, so there are 51 different programs throughout the country. It includes pregnant or disabled people, adults and children.
  • Medicare: is intended primarily for those over 65 and are insured by the government.

Other forms of public healthcare or public aid include:

  • S-chip: a financial aid for those who are not below the threshold of income to be part of medicare, but do not have the sufficient resources to be able afford the expenses of a private medical insurance.
  • Veteran’s Administration : This is a program that provides health coverage to those veterans of the military.


Pharmacies in the USA

It is easy to find a pharmacy in US cities. You can find pharmacies in drug stores, grocery stores and large department stores or attached to hospitals and medical centres.

You can easily find prescription medication at pharmacies. One thing to bear in mind is that the cost of prescription medication can be very expensive. It is advisable to keep all your receipts to claim back the insurance.

When it comes to bringing prescription medication into the USA you need to be able to prove that the medication is yours through a copy of a prescription or other recognised means.

What Next?

If you need to stay in the hospital for three days in the US, it could cost you roughly $30,000, so it is highly recommended you look into getting insurance.