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Understanding—and Saving Money on—U.S. Health Insurance Plans

International students usually need health insurance when attending an independent school in the U.S. That’s why it’s so important for families to understand U.S. healthcare plans. America does not provide universal medical coverage, which means there are plenty of options to choose from.

Some schools may require a student to use a specific insurance provider or a plan that meets their specifications. Other schools let international families pick any plan they want, but it must meet requirements.

Before you purchase healthcare insurance, talk to the school. Find out if they have preferred providers, or if they require you to choose a plan they have approved. Or see if they have certain requirements if you’re allowed to choose your own plan.

What to Know About American Health Insurance

Here are a few things to know about U.S. healthcare plans.

Plans have terms such as deductible, copayment, premium, and coinsurance. It’s vital to understand the differences, in order to determine the plan that is best for your child.

  • Deductible: The set amount you have to pay before the insurance company starts to pay for medical expenses.
  • Copayment: A fixed amount you will pay each time your child receives certain medical services. These commonly apply to doctor visits, emergency room visits, and prescription medications. 
  • Coinsurance: This is the amount you will have to pay after meeting your deductible. It’s typically shown as a percentage when you’re comparing plans. For instance, a 20% coinsurance means that you’ll pay for 20% of the expense; the insurance company pays the rest.
  • Premium: What it costs to enroll in the plan.

Health insurance plans that have higher premiums tend to have lower deductibles, and vice versa. You’ll want to find a balance between them, and factor in other issues like how often your child may need to go to the doctor, if the child takes any medications regularly, and the risk for injury if your child participates in sports.

Your child’s plan will include in-network and out-of-network providers. The plans usually cover most or all costs if you use doctors in the network. Plans typically offer some coverage if your child goes out of network. The best way to save money is to use doctors in the network.

In some situations, your child’s school may send them to an urgent care facility. These are for urgent needs that aren’t life-threatening. They usually cost less than visiting a hospital emergency room. 

Be aware of limitations and exclusions, too. These often are not included in marketing material, so stay on the lookout for common limitations and exclusions, such as not covering sports-related injuries or pre-existing conditions.

When your child is studying in a foreign country, their health and safety are priorities. Let ISM’s International Scholar Protection give you peace of mind knowing your child has access to high-quality health care (offered by the Blue Cross Blue Shield® PPO network) no matter where they are in the U.S.
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