The USA at a Glance
Health Insurance and Transport in the USAiStockphoto
Surfing is a popular hobby of expats and locals living at the US coasts.
Health Insurance for Expatriates
Most expat employees take advantage of group health insurance plans offered by their employer. They can be extended to also cover the employee´s spouse or the entire family.
Usually, there is a choice of different packages. For example, plans with high monthly contributions expect individuals to pay only a low share of the costs incurred through medical treatment. Other plans offer low monthly rates, but personal contributions towards treatments can be significantly higher.
Virtually no insurance provides 100% coverage. The Agency of Healthcare Research and Quality provides advice and guidance in choosing the right plan. In addition, there are two types of healthcare organizations or networks, HMO (Health Maintenance Organization) and PPO (Preferred Provider Organization). They maintain their own network of doctors, and members pay a fixed monthly rate to receive free treatment.
General Health Advice
No common health risks are known at present in the United States. General health, safety and hygiene standards are high, and there are no special immunization requirements. Expats with families whose children are likely to attend school in the USA should, however, make sure that the child´s standard vaccination record is up to date and that no booster injection is outstanding.
There are numerous public and private hospitals across the country. Private hospitals often have more modern facilities and better service, but are considerably more expensive. Public hospitals that are affiliated to a near-by university are usually better equipped than standard public hospitals.
The daily cost for hospital treatment can be quite high, and any bills arising from emergency treatment usually need to be settled immediately. If specialist treatment is not required, walk-in clinics in drugstore or supermarket chains offer a cheaper and increasingly popular alternative to doctors. They are staffed by nurses and physician assistants and mostly provide fast and reliable service.
Taxis and Public Transportation
North Americans tend to rely on their car for getting around. With the exception of some big cities, public transport is often not adequate. Only New York City and Washington D.C. have an extensive subway and light rail network. Limited services operate in Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco.
Even in these cities, however, remote suburbs are often not connected to the public transport network. In smaller towns and cities, the only alternative to driving a car is taking the bus or a taxi.
In some cities, taxis are of a standard color or make, e.g. the famous yellow cab in New York City, but in other places they can be more difficult to spot. Taxis should always have a valid license, and it is common practice to tip the driver.
Buses or coaches are also used for inter-city travel, e.g. the famous Greyhound Lines. Rail services in the USA are comparatively underdeveloped. Commuter trains are usually operated by independent companies.
Long-distance and inter-city train services are, however, provided by the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, a government-run company also known as Amtrak. For inter-state travel, most people make use of the extensive and relatively affordable network of domestic flights.
Expats thinking about importing their car should contact the American Automobile Association for information on the validity of international driving licenses, insurance, etc. As a general rule, non-residents are exempt from car tax for the first 12 months of their stay if they bring their own car. After that, the vehicle has to be exported or brought into compliance with federal motor vehicle safety standards.
When buying a car, consult the Kelly Blue Book for standard prices of new and used cars before agreeing upon a price with the trader. Driving in the USA is relatively easy. There is no road tax, but speed limits are enforced very rigorously.