Medical Care in the USA while on the J-1 Program

J-1 Teaching Assistants take notes during CICD's annual presentation
Nov 14 2018

Medical care and insurance may not be the first thing on your mind as you prepare for your J-1 Internship, but it is extremely important to be prepared for an unexpected illness or emergency while traveling abroad.

The U.S. is known for having high healthcare costs – it’s true! 

Find a Medical Center That Accepts Your Insurance

Not all doctors will accept your insurance. In the USA, doctors agree to accept insurance from specific insurance companies. You cannot walk into any clinic to receive care free of charge – it is important to do your research beforehand. If a doctor does not accept your insurance, that means that you may need to pay your own medical bills out-of-pocket, rather than filing a claim.

Know your insurance provider – Did you purchase insurance through CICD, or do you have your own? Most insurance providers now have online accounts that you can use to locate doctors in your area. Always create an account or call your insurance company to check which doctors are in your network.

Even if your doctor accepts your insurance, not all treatment is covered – certain specialty care such as non-routine operations may not be covered. It’s important to request a list of benefits from your provider to understand what is covered under your plan. Remember that even covered benefits often require a copay.

Have an emergency fund -When you’re not feeling well, you may not be thinking clearly or have time to do your research. You may have to seek care at the closest available emergency room or clinic. In these situations, you may need to pay out-of-pocket. Make sure that you have the necessary funds set aside for such instances.

Important Terms

In-network: The list of doctors, health providers, hospitals and clinics that are covered under your healthcare provider.

Claim: A formal request sent to your insurance provider to ask them to cover the cost of the care you received. Sometimes your doctor will file the claim for you; sometimes you will have to do it yourself – ask your doctor!

Benefits: The care items covered by your insurance plan, such as: surgery, ambulance trip, emergency room visit, x-rays.

Copay: Money that is paid out-of-pocket for a benefit. Some benefits are only partially covered by insurance, such as dental care. You may be required to pay a copay, usually ranging from $30-$100, before receiving care.


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