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What to Know About Planning for International Student Health Insurance

Of all the preparations that families make when sending a child abroad for studies, securing health insurance is at the top of the list. 

If your child is accepted into a U.S. private school, there may be policies requiring health insurance. Most schools require international student health coverage. Some recommend or only offer one insurance carrier; others leave policy selection to the families. It’s important to know your options, to ensure your child is protected from the unexpected.

Health Insurance in the U.S.

Next, it helps to know a bit about the American healthcare system. The U.S. has public and private healthcare options. Not all Americans have health insurance. People from most states can purchase it through the federal government’s Health Insurance Marketplace®. Otherwise, many Americans get their health insurance through their employer or through government programs based on income levels.

Policies differ based on a variety of factors, and that will affect the cost. Just know that not all doctors are typically covered under a single plan. Instead, the policy will give you a list of in-network providers. Using doctors in the plan’s network can save you money. 

You may be able to get some coverage if you see someone out of the network, but you generally pay more to see those doctors. Be mindful of the deductible, as some plans with high deductibles mean that your child will only be able to get coverage (or some coverage) for some services after spending a certain amount of money.

For international students, the best way to understand your options is to work with your school’s healthcare office. Otherwise, you may want to reach out to counselors who specialize in working with international students. 

How to Select a Healthcare Plan for Your International Student

Here are a few more things to keep in mind:

  • Some schools won’t give you a choice in picking a plan; you may have to buy the policy that the school mandates. (Schools that authorize specific healthcare options will make you aware of the policy details—both benefits and limitations.)
  • Make sure the policy aligns with visa requirements.
  • Explore telemedicine options. See if your child will be able to connect online with a doctor for treatment of minor conditions.
  • Talk to the school nurse. They will provide details on where your child may be treated in the event of an emergency—useful so you can choose in-network providers.
  • Pay attention to the duration of the policy, so you’re not paying to insure your child if they are not on campus for the summer.
  • Be able to access the policy details and network of doctors online; that way, you can find in-network providers, pay bills, and have access to other information—along with contacts at the insurance company who can assist you.
  • Ask the school if they require dental insurance, a prescription plan, or accident insurance.

There’s a lot to take in when it comes to finding and choosing health insurance for your international student. But there are many resources to help you find the plan that’s best for your child.