The High Cost of Not Having Health Insurance

Mark Sneed

Aug 25, 2010

The High Cost of Not Having Health Insurance

 “My friend has recently immigrated to the USA, he was just in a bad accident and he does not have health insurance”.  “My wife has just joined me here in America, she is pregnant and we do not have health insurance.” These are the types of statements that are heard in our office every week!  Their next question is usually, “What health insurance plan do you have that will cover this?”  The answer is -  “none”.  Had these people taken out health insurance prior to one of the above incidents occurring they would have had several choices.  Without health insurance most people in these situations end up paying for services themselves and/or they don’t get the same quality of care as those with insurance.

Expensive Health Care

Health care in America is very expensive and it is important to have coverage before something catastrophic happens. One of our clients was recently charged over $6,500.00 a day at UC Davis Hospital in Sacramento, CA!  The cost of an organ transplant can easily exceed $200,000.00. CBS News reported in July of this year that an emergency room visit, plus ambulance, might cost $2,000.00 or $3,000.00. The National Center for Health Statistics reported that there 39.4 visits to emergency rooms for every 100 persons, 6.8 million visits for stomach and abdominal pain alone.  Over 40 million injury-related visits annually and 33.7 million urgent care visits annually.  Many times these charges will be higher for those who do not have insurance. The New York Times reported that a gynecologist in New York charges those with insurance $25 per exam and those without $175! One of the reasons for this is that major insurance companies can negotiate with hospitals and doctors to get large discounts that the individual patient cannot.

Quality of Care

It is a sad fact, but in America you will receive far better health care if you have insurance.  Substandard care may mean waiting longer for care or it may mean not getting necessary preventative care.  Some hospitals may not even admit an uninsured person or they may send them to a public hospital where the lines are even longer!  Many uninsured immigrants feel like they have been placed in a lower category of society because of not having insurance.

When those without insurance forgo going to the doctor for preventative care they are more likely to be hospitalized.   The Kaiser Foundation found that the uninsured are twice as likely to be hospitalized for conditions that could have been managed in a doctor’s office.  Families USA, in Washington, DC reports that uninsured cancer patients are more likely to be diagnosed with late stage cancer and mortality rates are significantly higher for uninsured women with breast cancer.  Other studies have found that putting off getting care often times results in a more serious illness, extended hospital stays, and even a greater chance of death.

Senior Immigrants (Age 60+)

What about insurance for the senior immigrant?   Since seniors generally require more health care (due to age, disease, health problems, etc.) health insurance in the past has been either very expensive or non-existent.  Legal immigrants to the USA must wait 5 years before they are eligible to purchase Medicare coverage, so finding a plan that will fill that gap is imperative.  If an individual sponsors a senior immigrant that individual might end up being the one who will be expected to pay the high costs mentioned above.  Some states allow certain immigrants to be covered under Medicaid, but government bureaucracy can be a nightmare and often times the quality of care is substandard!

Great News

The great news is that there are good health plans available, which are specifically designed for immigrants up to age 65 as well as those over age 65! Short-term immigrant health plans, as well as long-term permanent resident plans, are available from private insurers.  Eligibility is based on length of time in the US, age and health status.  Short-term plans usually are guaranteed issue, meaning anyone can get coverage for new sicknesses and accidents regardless of health.  While some plans for immigrants can be expensive (especially for seniors), there are ones available on the market for less than $150 per month, even for those over age 80!*

Getting Coverage

Where can I find information on this type of health insurance?  Many times, the average insurance agent doesn’t have a clue!  Plans for non-US citizens are not found on every “street corner”, however, there are certain agencies which specialize in this type of coverage.  The Internet is a great place to find information, including benefits, exclusions, and rates.

Even though buying insurance can be a large expenditure, it is a necessary one here in America.  The cost of medical care is climbing every year at an unprecedented rate – in fact in the last 6 years costs have nearly doubled.  The cost of not having insurance can far exceed the cost of purchasing coverage before something happens – plus, having that “Medical ID” card, which tells the medical facility that you have health insurance, is a necessity not a luxury.


Mark Sneed is the Vice President of Insurance Services of America (ISA), a worldwide marketing office of international health and life insurance.  ISA has many plans for immigrants, visitors and world travelers.  They have been written about in American Airlines’ in-flight magazine, Global HR News, Boston Herald Newspaper, and have achieved recognition as the top sales organization by every company that they represent.  They are not tied to just one insurance company, but rather they have the capability to “shop around” for the immigrant to find the best coverage at the best price.

Other Insurance Services of America web sites are:,,  and

Insurance Services of America may be reached at 1-800-647-4589 (1-480-821-9052 outside of North America) or by email at