If a US citizen breaks a leg in England while visiting there, how does the health service bill the US citizen or is the service free?
Answered by: John Norman,VP, Technology (2011-present)
This is not about breaking a leg, so if your question is that specific, I can’t help you.
In February of 2020 I was visiting the UK and had an issue that required an EMT to conduct an ECG (what Americans call an EKG). It was fast and efficient; the EMT reminded me of James Corden. I was advised to be taken in an ambulance to the A&E (the accident and emergency wing of a nearby hospital; what Americans call the ER). I got a full workup and was asked to stay overnight in the hospital. The second day, they asked to keep me one more day for observation: Which I did. Based on what I know now, their diagnosis and treatment was appropriate.
EMT: No charge. Ambulance: No charge. First dayight: No charge. Second dayight: 1026 (the invoice suggests that the standard cost for a day in a ward is 3000, but the bill was prorated to the time I spent on the ward which was about 1/3 of a full 24 hour period). Also, from what I could tell, I was not charged for the (not cheap) meds. Anyway, I was told that I was to be charged for the care after the first day because I was a visitor, presumably from outside the EU.
The care was excellent. The staff obviously took significant pride in their work. A few things struck me as quite different from American care:
First off, the hospital was pretty run down and at the very least needed a coat of paint - but I was grateful that the money was being spent on care rather than the physical surroundings.
Second, I was in a ward with some 9 other men. It seems more common in the USA to have a shared room with two people. But again, I didn’t see this as impeding the care at all, and there was a bit of camaraderie among the blokes in my area.
Last, one drug they prescribed was a more expensive one than the alternatives: a drug that requires less clinical management. When I got back to the States, my American doctors were really interested in that: They said that they would have likely chosen something cheaper from the formulary that required some return visits to the clinic for monitoring. So even though more expensive, it would seem that the A&E preferred a drug that would be easier for me to manage.
Given the timing, it looks like I luckily missed getting infected with COVID-19; in that period toward the end of February, no one in the hospital was wearing masks, etc.