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When I first moved from Canada to the U.S., I figured, Hey! This isn’t all that different.In the network - an expat's shift to US healthcare We can watch hockey, eat packaged dinners … even get a cup of Tim’s in a few states. The telephone companies even included Canada in their domestic plan. Home away from home!

All it took, though, was one trip to the emergency room and it became fully apparent that I was definitely in a different country … and I didn’t speak the language! In network. Out of network. Inclusion. Exclusion. Co-pay. When we lived in Canada, our definition of elective surgery usually only pertained to something cosmetic, not something to do with your heart! We soon learned that going to the hospital closest to your home could cost you thousands if it or the doctor isn’t in your healthcare insurance network.

Many companies in the U.S. have American staff who grew up with this healthcare system; they know it and understand it. They don’t always understand that foreign staff often come from other countries with universal healthcare. The transferees don’t know what they don’t know … and so, they don’t know what they should ask. It isn’t until something awful happens that the differences become clear. It can be a very costly lesson, financially and emotionally.

To help avoid costly lessons like this, if you are relocating to the U.S. or if you are an HR professional, discuss healthcare. Ideally, the subject and what to do in an emergency should be discussed during the orientation phase. The transferee should know the doctors and hospitals in their network that are closest to home. With a little information and planning, it can save time, frustration and money.

As the saying goes: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!”

About the author

Kerry Daniels

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