What happens when your Au Pair gets sick and needs some medical care?
We already know that as good host parents we need to provide them with reasonable ‘sick time’ off and not dock their pay (although I think it’s fine to reschedule their hours in the same week). But what about the cost of medical treatment?
Over all our 11 au pairs, we only had one with a ‘serious’ health problem– actually a dental problem — and I was able to cajole my dentist into treating her at a reduced rate. This turned out to be an interesting professional experience for him. As he described it: "Her dental care was state of the art– in 1959 in the Soviet Union."
Other times, we have had Au Pairs who needed OB/GYN care (cramps, etc.) and I sent them to the Planned Parenthood clinic. And, when they’ve had bad coughs, sprained wrists, and so on they’ve gone to the ‘Doc in the Box’ emergent care center, for $75. But, thank goodness, never anything serious or expensive.
And I’m relieved about that too, because you only realize how expensive even the most basic health care can be until you see someone trying to pay for it ‘out of pocket’.
So what’s a host parent to do, when their au pair actually gets sick, and does need care? Here’s one host mom’s concern…
We have currently have our second au pair, and have had very good experiences with both of our au pairs to date. Some ups and downs, but generally very positive. However with each au pair I have had an uncomfortable situation in terms of a medical issue and health insurance.
In each case the au pair had a relatively mild viral illness (my husband and I are doctors and felt pretty confident that this was nothing worrisome). In each case our AP has wanted to see a doctor and has complained extensively about the symptoms.
We didn’t feel comfortable telling her not to see a doctor and ultimately each has gone to a local MD and has come out with a prescription for a medication (inhaler and antibiotic in one case, antibiotic alone in the other) of dubious value for her condition.
Both au pairs were shocked at:
1. the size of the medical bill
2. how little the au pair insurance covers
3. the cost of prescriptions drugs.
Each has then asked me to either try to get the medications from my work (I don’t work in an office, and don’t have samples available) and/or pay part of the bills.
One had a mild allergic reaction to the drug she was prescribed and landed in a local emergency room, generating an additional bill of $350, which really distressed her (she has the money saved, but had planned to use it for other things). With or without antibiotics the illnesses have been over within 1-2 weeks.
In general, I believe in treating our au pairs as a member of the family while they are with us. But I admit, I don’t like the idea of being expected to help with these medical bills or with obtaining prescriptions. I was an exchange student abroad in college (when I was younger than my au pairs) in a program where I lived with a family. It would never in a million years have crossed my mind to ask for their help with medical bills. I have considered both of our au pairs adults and expect them to be responsible for their own health care. Has anyone else encountered a similar situation??
Last year there was a story in the New York Times about a family with an au pair who had cancer, and they not only paid for her treatment but also housed her and her mother while she recovered from surgery and chemo. This was wonderful of them, but really above and beyond what is or should be expected.
I agree with this host mom — medical costs are not the host family’s responsibility. This is one of those areas where having an au pair be ‘like a family member’ is not the same as if she were your daughter. (Unless of course you have a lot of money and would not be challenged to pay for her medical care.) But what do you think?