Health Care in the United States

Health care in the United States is modern and scientific. Physicians, clinics, and pharmaceutical companies seek the newest and most advanced treatments. Patients expect their doctors to use the most modern methods of diagnosis and treatment, so their symptoms can be identified and their illnesses treated quickly and effectively. Technology plays an important role in specialty care and in the diagnosis and treatment of illness.

Health care is very expensive in the United States. Health care costs, including hospital and clinic charges and doctors’ 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.

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. It is a violation of immigration law for non-immigrants (including F-1, F-2 students and dependents) to accept public assistance, even for medical care. In some cases, accepting such assistance could prevent you from securing a visa abroad or reentering the United States. You are responsible for payment of your health care costs, just like everyone else in the United States. The only exceptions are for certain very poor and elderly U.S. citizens and residents. In some cases, you may be refused medical care and services if you are unable to pay for them.

Medicaid and Other Public Benefits

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 means-tested 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! For example, a graduate student in California was recently excluded from the United States because his wife paid for a hospital visit with Medicaid funds two years earlier. He was only allowed back into the country after he repaid the money from Medicaid.

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.

While for the vast majority of international students there is never any question of accepting public benefits, it is important that you are aware of the new and harsher environment surrounding these issues.  Don’t listen to others who encourage you to use these benefits, despite the economic advantages. The most obvious way to avoid a financial situation where you are tempted to apply for these funds is to maintain adequate health and accident insurance, as you are requested to do by AUNE. If you have any questions, please inquire at the Admissions Office.