US Medical costs without insurance for a furriner

First of all, let’s get it out of the way that I’m an idiot for travelling overseas without taking out travel insurance. “Two weeks in the US,” I thought, “what’s going to happen? It’s not like I’m going somewhere with high health risks…”


Never say that. It’s the kiss of death because fate has no self-control when it comes to resisting temptation.


I’m now faced with a non-life-threatening but rather annoying medical problem. In the US. With no insurance. Australia (where I’m from) does have reciprocal public health arrangements with some countries, but the US is not on the list.

So, if I want to visit a doctor over here, what’s the likely reception, given that I have no insurance? What sort of charges am I likely to face for a fifteen to twenty minute consultation to get a prescription written?

I will never leave Australia without travel insurance again
I will never leave Australia without travel insurance again
I will never leave Australia without travel insurance again
I will never leave Australia without travel insurance again…

Well, when I went to check on a respiratory infection three states away, my insurance did cover it but the check didn’t arrive for a month. It was about $275 without the prescription.

Have you checked Traveller’s Aid?

Well, it all depends on where you are and how in-depth the visit is. Generally, basic office visits with your primary care doc run around $85 here. Those prices are much higher in other markets and for more involved exams. Then you’ve got possible lab work and the cost of prescriptions.

This is, of course, assuming that a primary care doc could get you in soon. You can’t always depend on this, especially as a new patient, so an urgent care center is probably your best bet. That will probably cost you more, though.

I’ll second that you want an emergency/urgent care center. Look in the phone book for “emergency medical services” and/or “clinics”. You want something that says “no appointments, minor injury, illness.” I have been to several of them, there will be a basic flat rate to see the doc (IIRC, $50-$75).

Have whoever you’re staying with call their doctor and explain the situation. Your being the friend of a regular patient, someone in the doctor’s office may have sympathy and try to work you in.

Otherwise, I’d suggest checking around for a minor emergency clinic. Minor emergency clinics are an idea that never really caught on, to bridge the gap between hospitals and general practitioners. The doctors seem to make their money by increasing the number of patients that they see (this is drive-through medicine, don’t expect a bedside manner), but they only charge a little more than GPs and their business is built around walk-ins.

As it happens, there is a quick-care clinic not that far from here, so I’ll be paying a visit later on today. Shouldn’t need lab tests or anything like that, just a straight consult and a scrip.

Thanks for the answers - much appreciated.