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What would be the situation for a visitor should they contract Covid-19 and require hospitalisation whilst in the US?

  • Would it be classed as an emergency or secondary care? Does the US provide emergency care free of charge?

  • Do charges vary e.g. by state or hospital?

My question was prompted by this one Is it safe for an ESTA waiver visitor to return to Japan until the corona virus has been contained?, which made me wonder about the financial risks of extending a visit, given that many travel insurance policies limit the length of each trip. For example, I have an annual travel policy but cover is limited to 45 days. It also excludes any epidemic or pandemic.

  • Assume that if a hospital does not accept your policy, you will be considered uninsured and liable for any costs, that may be hospital specific. – Mark Johnson Mar 5 at 14:11
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    To easily answer two of your questions: No the US does not provide emergency care free of charge. And yes, charges do vary between hospitals. And US healthcare is the most expensive in the world. – DJClayworth Mar 5 at 15:39
  • If you don't have some sort of medical travel insurance, you would likely be over one hundred thousand dollars in debt by the end of your care. At a hospital in NYC where I stayed for several days, the non-insurance price for a room is $13k/night. In addition to that, they charged for every single nurse visit and tiny piece of medication. – Gyðja Björnsdóttir Mar 6 at 3:42
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    @GyðjaBjörnsdóttir you would likely be over one hundred thousand dollars in debt, unless, of course, OP has the money to pay the hundred thousand dollar bill. Some people earn that in a year. – gerrit Mar 6 at 10:02
  • @GyðjaBjörnsdóttir They charge even the bottle of milk (or bag of ice) they give you (of course at a much higher than market price), if they believe that counts as medication. It's very ridiculous if you don't have the proper insurance. – xuq01 Mar 6 at 18:40
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Answering my own question:

  • As stated in a comment by @DJClayworth, the US does not provide emergency care free of charge. Charges do vary between hospitals, and US healthcare is the most expensive in the world.

  • Visitors contemplating extending their stay in the US because of worries about the extent of the epidemic in their country of residence should check that they have adequate insurance for the entire length of stay, starting from the date they arrived in the US.

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