Health insurance for foreigners visiting the U.S.?
May 16, 2011 3:33 PM   Subscribe

Health insurance for foreigners visiting the U.S.?

My girlfriend's mother will be visiting the US from China for a month. We'd like her to have some kind of health insurance while she's here, and her Chinese insurance doesn't cover the US.

This is for emergency coverage; she doesn't have any known pre-existing conditions. We plan to call girlfriend's insurer to see if mom can be added to her policy, but she's on cheapo student insurance so that's a long shot.

Googling reveals a whole industry of "visitor's insurance" offered by companies I've never heard of. I've spent a while wading through their material but it's overwhelmingly complicated and I can't evaluate if it's snake oil or not, so I'm turning to AskMe.

Visitors from abroad: What do you do for insurance when you're iin the U.S.?

I've seen this question from 2005, where the consensus was "try to find insurance in [country of origin] that will cover travel". Is that still the best advice?
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total)
I'm from Canada, and whenever I travel I buy extra insurance here for the specific trip - it's available here (in Canada) from most travel agencies, or banks, etc. I wonder if it is possible for your guest to buy insurance in China for travel to the US?
posted by lulu68 at 4:10 PM on May 16, 2011

I used World Nomads for insurance for myself (USA citizen, Japan resident) and my wife (Japanese citizen) on our honeymoon to the USA. While we didn't actually end up using the coverage, I found the prices and terms of coverage to be quite good and plan on using them again.
posted by sleepytako at 4:53 PM on May 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

yes, what you're looking for is travel insurance, which covers emergency medical needs whilst on holiday (plus some things like lost luggage, meagre life insurance, theft, etc.) make sure that the company offering the insurance is underwritten by a reputable insurer and overseen and regulated by the appropriate authorities (don't know what those would be in China?) usually these companies are local to the country of origin, but underwritten by much larger multinational agencies.

obviously read the fine print about what is covered and what is not, as well as any excess liabilities. (what do you have to pay out of pocket, how do you make claims, how do you have to contact them if you are admitted to hospital)

insurance rates for travel to the US are generally higher than travel to other places (e.g. Europe) where there is more comprehensive national healthcare and costs for emergency care are not as high.
posted by wayward vagabond at 5:10 PM on May 16, 2011

When flying to or even connecting in, or flying over the US, I make sure I have comprehensive travel insurance that would cover me while in the US - most travel agents out here anyway handle that, and it's well worth it - I would have expected thsi to be fairly global, but no idea about china.

What you want is travel insurance, and ensure it covers the US.

Even just for the possibility of, say, having some kind of critical situation come up (heart attack?) and having the plane make an emergency landing in the US to service you could bankrupt you if you don't have it (I know, not precisely what you asked)
posted by TravellingDen at 5:11 PM on May 16, 2011

We use World Nomads, too. We've never had to make a claim.

I was reminded a couple of months ago why we shell out for insurance when we visit the U.S. A friend hadn't gotten around to take out a policy before the trip and his 7 yr old fell and hit his head. An ER trip and CAT scan later, the kid was more or less fine, the family owes $5000.
posted by wallaby at 5:14 PM on May 16, 2011

I used Gateway and it was very easy and not too expensive but never had to make a claim.
posted by TheRaven at 12:30 AM on May 17, 2011

There may be a state program to cover them. In MA, there's Mass Health (it predates Romneycare, BTW.) I do not know if New York has anything like that, but it's worth investigating.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:24 AM on May 17, 2011

I use Medex for all my travel insurance. I haven't had to make a claim, but they are reasonably priced and are the recommendation of my large employer and my former university.
posted by smackfu at 5:56 AM on May 17, 2011

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