My in-laws (66 and 69) will be visiting the US soon. Given the high cost of medical care in the US, what is the minimum amount that any insurance policy they buy should cover for medical care? I've seen plans that range from maximums of USD 50k to USD 500k.

Things to consider:

  1. I'd prefer to guard against low-probability, high-cost events. So high-deductible plans are OK
  2. They will be in the country for 2 months
  3. They don't have any pre-existing chronic conditions that will require treatment while they are in the country


Most of the plans I've seen offered by India-based insurers have limits of USD 30k for any one illness or accident (while still claiming a maximum coverage of USD 100k - 500k or whatever). This would seem to be not enough, I would think, say in case of hospitalization.

  • 1
    There's absolutely no way to tell. Per this article "among 19,000 patients in California an appendectomy varied in price from $1,529 to $182,955". My grandfather got a heart attack while in the US and needed emergency bypass surgery and a pacemaker, these days that can be $3-400K easily. And so forth.
    – chx
    May 29 '16 at 8:20
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    @chx I disagree - getting a plan for $1 million dollars should cover 99% of medical procedures out there, so the question is answerable.
    – JonathanReez
    May 29 '16 at 10:04
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    "range from maximums of USD 50k to USD 500k." -- sure, $1M would do it but if the question is from 50 to 500, who the hell knows really. I'd go with 500K but ...who knows.
    – chx
    May 29 '16 at 10:07
  • 1
    It may be somewhat opinion-based but I suspect there is a general consensus at least among major insurers, allowing us to make a relatively objective answer. For instance, perhaps we could find out, "how often is $xxx insufficient?". I think it is an important question to which many of us would seek an answer. If it is of any interest, my plan covers me up to £2m (about US$3 million).
    – Calchas
    May 29 '16 at 13:39
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    $30k is a ludicrously small amount of coverage for a medical incident in the US. "Which", a popular consumer advice magazine, recommends GBP 5 million, or US$7.3 million: which.co.uk/money/insurance/reviews-ns/travel-insurance/…
    – Berwyn
    May 30 '16 at 4:43

Don't sweat this too much. First of all, we are talking $25-$50 here for the difference between $300,000 and $1,000,000 of coverage.

Second, think about how health-care billing works in the US. Let's say you have some horrible accident and are in the hospital for two weeks. Two months later, the hospital will send a bill for $250,000 to insurance company. Two months after that, the insurance company will send the hospital a check for $180,000 and a letter saying that you will pay off the other $20,000. (Where did the other $50,000 go? Ah, that is one of the miracles of modern medicine. It just... went.) Two months after that, the hospital will send you a bill for the $20,000. Then, even in the unlikely case you are still in the US, you have two choices:

  1. Ignore it
  2. Have the following conversation with the billing department

Billing department: You are responsible for $20,000.
You: I don't have it.
Billing department: [long pause] What can you do?
You: Uh, I can pay $100 a month for five years. $6000.
Billing department: [sigh] OK.

If you are a rich guy holding out on the hospital, yeah, they will put it into Collection, which means they'll hassle you, sue you, garnishee your wages, whatever, not so much to actually get the money but pour encourager les autres.

But if you are a visitor from Outer Camelstan, the hospital knows it isn't going to get paid, they will take what they can get.

Definitely buy evacuation insurance. Hospitals are used to working on credit, and used to not getting paid. Airlines expect cash up front, and your sob story about how you need a respirator and a stretcher and a nurse will mean exactly zero to them.

  • 2
    I would not advice to buy an ensurance that is lacking in coverage. Better spend that $100 extra now than possible $100 a month later.
    – Willeke
    May 29 '16 at 19:08
  • Thanks for the answer. I'm definitely not worried about the premium difference between $300k and $1m; it's not worth skimping over. The problem is a lot of India-based carrier policies say "we'll cover $300k" but when you look closer have restrictions like a $30k limit per illness. So you'd have to get sick 10 different times (apparently) to ever get that much coverage. Whereas the more "likely" disaster-scenario is a single illness or extended hospitalization that runs into "bankruptcy territory" and is what insurance is actually supposed to be for.
    – Jay
    May 29 '16 at 20:59
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    What sort of answer is this? Advice to buy an insurance plan that leaves you with a debt of 20,000 USD? In some countries the directors of this insurance company would be guilty of a criminal fraud for deliberately failing to make the payment they undertook in the policy to make.
    – Calchas
    May 29 '16 at 21:44
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    @Calchas -- I'm not sure exactly what you are reacting to here, but 100% insurance is fairly rare in the US. Almost every policy will have a deductible (a minimum amount the beneficiary must pay before the insurer pays anything), a co-insurance (a fraction of every expense the beneficiary must pay), and a benefit maximum. It's not intended deceptively and deceives no one. May 30 '16 at 4:49
  • 2
    @Malvolio What's available in the US isn't what the question is about.
    – Relaxed
    Sep 28 '16 at 11:11

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