The healthcare system in the US

General Information

Doctors’ visits and medications are expensive in the United States.
In large cities especially doctors’ visits can cost up to five times more than in France, and a day spent in the hospital can cost $2000 - $3000. Good medical insurance coverage, usually paid for by employers, is essential. We recommend that you take out local medical insurance because in the event of hospitalization you will need to provide proof of local coverage or solvency.

Choice of Doctors

We suggest you choose a doctor as soon as possible (unless this is already decided by your insurance carrier), by asking around (French associations in your town or at the Consulate which maintains a list of recommended French-speaking doctors). Physician referral services, which have lists of doctors, base their choices on geographical proximity not necessarily professional competence.

No House Calls

Be advised that American physicians do not make house calls (they will sometimes give advice by telephone). In the event of hospitalization, doctors will recommend the hospital with which they are affiliated. They may sometimes be very (even overly) meticulous, sending you for lab tests or x-rays on even the slightest suspicion though these might not be necessary (the medical profession fears malpractice suits which are very common in the United States).


Certain vaccinations are mandatory especially for admission to schools and universities ; measles, diphtheria-tetanus-polio, whooping cough, rubella, German measles, mumps), BCG (Mantoux test).
Vaccination against hepatitis B is sometimes recommended.
Note, vaccines are a lot more expensive than in France.


We recommend you bring with you any medications you usually take, along with a thermometer if you are not familiar with Fahrenheit measures. You may be able to find one that is marked in both Centigrade and Fahrenheit, but note that 37°C is 98.6°F, and 38.5°C is 101.3°F.
Many medications are sold over the counter and are not reimbursed.

Here are some common first aid items:
For fever: Tylenol, Advil
For a cough: Robitussin
For indigestion: Maalox, Tumms
For disinfecting: First Aid Cream, Peroxide

Aspirin is widely used but doctors discourage giving it to children under 15 years old. Medications are sold at varying prices and in chain pharmacies (drugstores). Certain drugstores home-deliver prescriptions phoned in by your doctor. There are no night services though most drugstores are open on Sunday.

Last modified on 24/01/2017

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