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Need Health Insurance Help


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While this forum may be an odd place to ask this question, the Grad Cafe community has been one I've been a part of for awhile now, and one I've found to be educated, open-minded, and extremely helpful. Thus I bring my issue here:


I've just within the last hour been diagnosed with an issue which requires somewhat serious surgery.


I'm looking into all my options right now, and one is returning to America for the operation. (I live in China.)


Obviously, the biggest problem here is that I don't have health insurance. So, what are my options? Do I have any?


I'd appreciate any help anyone could provide. Thanks!

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Are you a U.S. citizen?

Knowing more about your situation in terms of nationality, resources, etc. would help.


If you are and you're returning to the US, you can sign up for healthcare using the new exchanges. If you have no income you will qualify for medicaid and have free healthcare. If you have income, you may qualify for a plan with a subsidy.




How are you living in China? Are you studying there? Is it your home? Are you there with a university program? All of those may affect the answer.

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I am a US citizen. I've been living in China since 2006; first doing business, but now completing an MA.


The university is a local one. They provide health insurance, but it's also Chinese.

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Your options in the U.S. are going to depend on your 2014 estimated income, the number of people in your household, and your state of residence.


You should be able to look around the Marketplace now (some states have their own website, some use the federal website) and compare plans, but you have to be living in the U.S. to apply I believe (https://www.healthcare.gov/am-i-eligible-for-coverage-in-the-marketplace/).


If your income is less than the minimum listed for your household, you will not qualify for a subsidy on your plan so you will have to pay the full premium for coverage. https://www.healthcare.gov/how-can-i-save-money-on-marketplace-coverage/


If you have no income or very little, you may be eligible for Medicaid but that is if your state of residence expanded Medicaid. Many did not expand Medicaid and it's created a gap in coverage for the poorest of the poor. Some more on that: https://www.healthcare.gov/what-if-my-state-is-not-expanding-medicaid/


You can start here by selecting your state of residence to determine where you need to be shopping and get more details: https://www.healthcare.gov/what-is-the-marketplace-in-my-state/


There are 4 different levels of coverage: https://www.healthcare.gov/how-do-i-choose-marketplace-insurance/


From my understanding you must be enrolled by March 31, 2014 for your coverage to take effect in 2014 otherwise you will not have coverage until 2015. https://www.healthcare.gov/what-key-dates-do-i-need-to-know/


Good luck and I'm very sorry you are unwell.

Edited by louise86
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Guest Gnome Chomsky

I know that all universities offer somewhat cheap health insurance through the university. It's a little cheaper than you'd find through any other private agencies. However, you have to pay upfront and it's only good for the remainder of the semester in which you pay for it.

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Sorry to hear that you are unwell. The above posts have given a lot of useful information!! I am not an expert as I am new to America but I do want to extend on what Gnome Chomsky said--some US grad schools offer pretty good insurance for cheap. But that depends on whether or not your surgery is urgent. If it can wait until you start a US grad program, maybe you can and should factor the health plan included by each school into your decision. For complicated reasons, this was a big factor in my decision too so I looked in depth at all the health care plans at the schools I got into. 


Overall, I found that most schools will cover pretty extensive coverage (but there were a few that were minimal). I found that these plans will take you even if you have pre-existing conditions (although the Affordable Care Act / Obamacare do this now too, as the others pointed out above) and for the graduate student, most schools will greatly subsidize your plan. For example, my school pays for $6700 out of my $7200 annual health care premium. 


But waiting up to 9 months to get treatment might not be an option and you might not want to gamble both your PhD programs and your health on the outcome of grad admissions (although you should find out about those pretty soon and be able to make alternate plans if necessary). Just some more thoughts to help, I hope.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Sorry to hear you're unwell! Did you look into what it would cost to have that surgery done in Singapore or a similar country? Not only does it seem quite complicated to get health insurance in the US, and possibly be very time-consuming, I am honestly not a fan of people buying health insurance only for that one surgery/operation, because I think it's unfair, and, if everyone did this, the health care system would be completely unsustainable.


I studied in China for a while, and had to buy Chinese insurance, but also had insurance from my home country (for coverage in China and at home), bc Chinese basic insurance sucks. Maybe this would be an option for you (in the future at least). Plans like scorestudies aren't too expensive if you're a student. Hope you'll find a way, and (as a non-American), I do hope this experience will help you make (IMO) better choices in the future regarding health care.

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