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Healthcare in the United States: The top five things you need to know

  1. There is no universal healthcare. The U.S. government does not provide health benefits to citizens or visitors. Any time you get medical care, someone has to pay for it.
  2. Healthcare is very expensive. According to a U.S. government website, if you break your leg, you could end up with a bill for $7,500. If you need to stay in the hospital for three days, it would probably cost about $30,000.
  3. Most people in the U.S. have health insurance. Health insurance protects you from owing a lot of money to doctors or hospitals if you get sick or hurt. To get health insurance, you need to make regular payments (called “premiums”) to a health insurance company. In exchange, the company agrees to pay some, or all, of your medical bills. Learn more about health insurance.
  4. You will get most of your care from your “primary care provider” (PCP). After you buy health insurance, you can choose a PCP who is part of your insurance company’s network. If you buy an MIT health insurance plan, you will choose a PCP at MIT Medical. Your new PCP could be a nurse practitioner or a physician. You will see your PCP when you need a physical exam or lab test, when you are sick, or if you need care for an ongoing condition, like diabetes or high blood pressure. Learn more about PCPs.
  5. You will usually need an appointment to get medical care. If you want to see your PCP, you will need to call your PCP’s office to make an appointment. When you call, you need to explain why you need the appointment. If you are sick or hurt, you will get an appointment very soon. If you just need a routine physical exam, you might have to wait several weeks or even a month. Learn more about appointments.

NOTE: If you have a medical emergency or urgent need, you can get care immediately. Read more.