How does U.S. healthcare work?

The United States primarily relies on employers to provide health insurance coverage to their employees and dependents. There is no universal healthcare (government programs are confined to older persons, people with disabilities, low-income mothers and children, veterans, active-duty military personnel and their dependents, and Native Americans). 

The majority of Americans are covered by employer-sponsored health plans, which are offered as part of an employee's total compensation package.  The cost of the insurance premiums is typically shared between the employee and employer. The employee portion of the premium is done via payroll deduction (the employer pays the premiums directly to the insurance carrier). 

  • As a new hire, you will have a specific window to elect your benefits (choose your medical, dental, vision, or other company benefits)
  • Going forward, you will elect your benefits during your company's annual open enrollment window.
  • Outside of the open enrollment period, only specific qualifying life events allow you to make changes to your health plan.

After you elect your health plan, the insurance carrier will mail you a medical ID card. You'll present this whenever you receive care (to your medical provider or pharmacist). 

You'll pay a fixed amount out-of-pocket, known as a deductible, before insurance kicks in and begins to pay a portion of covered medical expenses.

Related reading:

How does a deductible work?
What are my health plan options?
Who can I add to my health plan?
10 Tips to Reduce Your Healthcare Costs

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