As there is no national or universal healthcare system that international students can use, American healthcare is substantially different from systems in other nations.
In the US, anyone in need of health insurance must select from among the private health care organizations and the plans they have to offer. Before starting their studies in the US, international students should look into their health insurance choices to ensure they are covered as soon as they arrive.
Why should I take out healthcare insurance in the USA?
Medical costs that you may incur in the US can be expensive and difficult to cover without help. With an X-ray costing from $100 (£82) to $22,000 depending on the area of the body, these are expenses that may be too much for an international student to keep up with.
However, there are health insurance plans that can cover you for most medical expenses. For example, students can find low-cost plans designed specifically for students. By taking out a plan that covers you as an international student away from your home country, you will be covered for any medical care or treatment that you might need while at university.
How much does healthcare cost in the USA for international students?
Each policy will vary depending on your university, state or health background. Some universities offer a plan in which all students must enrol so they know that everyone attending the institution is covered. Your visa category may affect what requirements you need to meet when applying.
If a plan isn’t offered by your university, there are other ways to take out a health insurance plan.
Health insurance plans for university students can start from $1,500 to $2,500 annually and increase depending on added extras and features you might want on your plan; for example, sport cover for athletes may have more cover for a higher cost. Often international students will receive a better deal if they find and begin their plan before they come to the US. You can then use that healthcare information in your visa application.
How does health insurance work in the USA?
Each type of health cover works slightly differently.
Healthcare insurance providers based in the US are part of a network where they can pay your medical bills directly to the doctor, hospital or clinic and remove the need for you to pay anything yourself. These plans often come with a set amount of cover: for example, two X-rays a year and one specialist appointment. Sometimes you will be asked to pay an excess, too, which might be $100 or so, but the provider will then cover the rest.
Some providers will reimburse you for any costs you paid up front. However, this does mean that you may have to pay a few thousand dollars initially before you get any money back. It’s important to check with your chosen supplier how financing your medical bills works to avoid being caught out by this step.
Finally, some insurance companies ask all clients to fill out claim forms and submit documentation to support their claim before they decide whether to pay out on the claim or not. This does not guarantee your costs will always be covered. If the insurance company finds that you have broken any rules or lied on your application about anything, they may not cover you at all, so ensure you are honest and include all your details from the beginning.
Do International Students in USA Need Health Insurance?
International students in the US may need health insurance to enroll at university, but not necessarily to get an F1 visa. So, having adequate health insurance coverage is a requirement set by the university, not by US law. So, you should check with the university that you will enroll at whether health insurance is mandatory for international students.
When Should F1 Visa Applicants Get Health Insurance?
You can get student health insurance anytime after setting foot in the United States, or even before you travel. Comparison sites such as Insubuy, offer different options for students. Depending on the policy, your coverage can start as soon as the next day after purchase.
Why Can’t I Just Use My Travel Insurance?
Your US travel insurance is not the same as international student insurance that is required for an F1 visa, because it is short-term and does not have the same amount of coverage. In a nutshell, travel insurance is to protect you and your belongings during a trip (e.g. the trip from your home country to the US), whereas student health insurance is to cover you for any medical expenses you may have while you are actually living and studying in the United States.
How can I find the right insurance plan?
Many universities in the US offer a group plan to students, so you can speak to them about what is covered. However, there are other plans that students can choose if their university does not offer cover.
Some universities offer a healthcare plan that students must buy separately, while others recommend affordable health insurance for international students that they believe will fit their students’ needs.
To choose the best plan, you should consider the following questions:
- What can I afford to pay in a medical emergency?
- What is the cost of the insurance plan?
- What can I afford to pay monthly/annually for cover?
- Do I have any current illnesses that need healthcare cover?
- Is there a chance I might need medical care in the future?
- Do I play any sports for which I should have medical insurance?
Once you understand the type of cover you need and how much you can afford, you can begin to compare the plans on offer and choose the one that fits you best. Make sure you fully research each plan and cross-check that it offers all the cover you need. The cheapest choice might not cover everything, so check all the details.
How do international students get healthcare in the US?
Here are the steps to secure health insurance as an international student:
- Check if your university has a plan that covers your needs.
- Ask them if the cost is covered by your tuition payments or whether there is an added charge.
- Search for companies that offer health insurance for international students in the US.
- Check with health insurance brokers who may be able to get you a good deal.
- List what you need from your health cover and compare it to the plans you have on offer.
- Check whether you can include dependents (if applicable).
- Select the most suitable plan for you and pay.
What are recommended health insurance plans for international students?
Many companies offer health insurance plans for international students. Highly rated ones for international students include:
- IMG Global – Patriot Exchange Program, Student Health Advantage and Student Health Advantage Platinum
- Cigna Global
- Allianz Worldwide Care – Allianz Care Basic, Allianz Care Pro and Allianz Care Plus
- Foyer Global Health – Essential, Special and Exclusive
- HCCMIS – StudentSecure
- Global Underwriters – Diplomat America plan
- Now Health International
Health Insurance Options for Foreign Students in the US
When you look up for international student health insurance options in the USA, you should also consult the regulation of the institution where you are registered at, to make sure in case they have any specific requirements. Here are the main types that you can choose from:
Mandatory Group Plan
Some schools/colleges/universities in the US have their own compulsory plans with predetermined coverage, which foreign students have to purchase.
The main features of plans implemented by schools are as following:
- they are often automatically added to your tuition bill
- usually, they cost more than individual plans
- they provide more comprehensive coverage, including:
- coverage for maternity
- pre-existing conditions without a waiting period
- mental health
- preventative care
Mandatory Group, with the Option to Waive
Some schools/colleges/universities have a mandatory insurance plan with predetermined coverage for all their students, but still, allow students to opt-out. This under the condition that the student who chooses to purchase health insurance outside the one predetermined by the school purchases an adequate plan.
Schools decide whether the outside-plan is adequate through the “waiver form”. This is a document no longer than two pages, that contains a list of the benefits requirements that your health insurance policy needs to either meet or exceed. It requires both your signature and that of the insurance company.
There are educational institutions in the US that do not have mandatory plans with pre-determined coverage, therefore students are free to select whatever plan they like.
If your school permits you to purchase whatever plan you like, never go for the cheapest option. The one offering most services, nor least. Instead, take a look at several plans so you can pick the best health insurance for F1 visa students in the USA.
International Student Health Insurance Requirements in USA
In particular, schools with a “waiver form” will require you to purchase insurance that fulfills the conditions listed below:
- Adequate Policy Maximum. Usually, students are asked to purchase a plan with a policy maximum of at least $50,000.
- Relatively Low Deductible. Schools often require a deductible limit per condition, or per policy period, as part of their waiver requirements, so that students can have out of pockets costs as low as possible.
- Mental Health Coverage. This requirement is included since universities want to make sure their students are not only physically healthy but also mentally.
- Maternity Coverage. Adequate maternity coverage will be required for female students, with at least an 80%coverage in-network for pre-natal, delivery and post-natal care.
- Pre-existing Condition Coverage. If you have an existing condition i.e. diabetic, you will have to include it in your insurance plan.
- Repatriation of Remains Coverage. In the event where you pass away, coverage for repatriation of remains provides financial assistance to your family to return your mortal remains to your home country.
What Determines the Cost of My F1 Visa Health Insurance?
The cost of your F1 visa insurance depends on several factors, including the city or state you live in, your age, and coverage.
- Where you live. The prices depend on the state or county in which you live in.
- Your age. The prices are higher the older a person is.
- Coverage: The length (how many months you need the plan for) as well as the level of coverage (what you want the policy to include/cover).
Health Insurance Options For International Students After Graduation
If you intend to stay in the United States after graduating, the type of health insurance you need will depend on your residential status.
If you change your status to an H-1B Work Visa, you will need H-1B compliant health insurance. This means you will initially have a short-term insurance plan, and you can switch to a long-term plan after at least six months of residency on an H-1B visa. In many cases, US employers offer health insurance coverage to employees.
If you are eligible for an Optional Practical Training (OPT), you will have to continue with your current plan. This is not possible if you were subscribed to an insurance plan offered by your school.
Health Insurance for International Students on OPT
Students under an Optional Practical Training (OPT) are not eligible for coverage with their school’s insurance plan anymore. So, you will need an OPT health insurance plan, which is not any different than regular insurance for international students. As such:
- If you had a Mandatory Group Health Insurance Plan offered by your school, you now have to find a private health insurance company which will offer coverage for students on an OPT.
- If you had an Optional Health Insurance Plan, then you may be able to continue with the same plan even during your OPT. You must contact your health insurance company for guidance on how to proceed.
- As a final option, your employer may include you on the company’s group health insurance, which would entail another type of insurance. The details of this type of insurance should be provided by your employer.
How to Get Dental Insurance for International Students in USA?
Not all international student medical insurance plans offer dental coverage. Therefore, you may have to purchase an additional dental insurance plan, which can be as an add-on to your existing plan (meaning you’ll have to pay a little extra on your monthly premium) or as a separate plan altogether.
If taken as a separate plan, it works pretty much the same as regular health insurance, wherein you have to pay a monthly premium and the insurer helps cover any costs that may arise.
Depending on the plan, dental insurance includes coverage for routine check-ups, emergency services, and services such as fillings, extractions, or cleanings. For more complicated services, like root canals, there is a lower amount of coverage, usually at 50% of the cost.
Does International Student Insurance Cover Medications, Eye Checks and Glasses?
Yes, most international student medical insurance covers for prescription medication. If you are not sure, you should read the policy description or ask the insurer. Usually, the way it works with prescription medication is that you pay for the medication upfront and then you file a claim for reimbursement with your insurer.
Additionally, there are a number of over-the-counter medications that do not require a prescription (such as cold medicine) and are available at drugstores across the US for fairly reasonable prices.
Similar to dental insurance, a basic plan may not offer coverage for eye check-ups or prescription eyeglasses or contacts. Depending on your insurance company, you can choose to have it covered, by paying a little extra on your monthly premium.
Is There Health Insurance Coverage for Dependents?
Yes, some schools include health insurance for the dependents (spouse and children) of their students as well. However, in these cases, the costs will be much higher than for an individual student.
If your school offers mandatory insurance without a waiver option, then you will have no choice but to go along with the insurance plan the school provides, regardless of the price.
On the other hand, if you are free to choose your coverage yourself, then you can opt for an F2 Visa health insurance plan, which offers more flexibility regarding the coverage your dependents receive.