Studying abroad is exciting, without a doubt. However, no matter how much you get caught up in the excitement, don’t forget to take some time to think of the more tedious (but necessary) aspects of your new adventure, such as international student health insurance.

Health insurance for international students is not any different from regular health insurance. What may differentiate it is that some companies offer policies designed specifically for students – meaning they are a little more affordable, can be purchased to encompass the entire period of your study abroad, and comply with the student visa requirements.

Why Do I Need International Student Health Insurance?

You need a good health insurance policy when studying abroad because healthcare costs can be too high for a student to afford, especially if you are studying in the US. Additionally, the costs for international students or expats are even higher than for citizens because internationals are not protected under any government scheme.

Because of this, many countries which receive a large number of international students have made student health insurance compulsory.

Having a good student health insurance policy will give you peace of mind, knowing that if you do need medical assistance during your studies abroad, at least you won’t need to pay thousands of dollars in medical bills.

What Is the Best International Student Insurance Plan?

The “best” international health insurance plan depends on who is purchasing. To be considered good, a plan should have adequate coverage for at least medical treatment, emergency evacuation, and medication.  When you are shopping around for a good international student insurance policy, keep the following in mind:

  • What’s the policy maximum? This is the amount of money that the insurance company will pay for an incident or illness as well as for the whole duration of your policy. Choose a plan with a maximum you are comfortable with.
  • How much is the deductible? Sometimes referred to as the excess, this is the amount of money you have to pay yourself before the insurance company takes over and pays for the rest. It can be from $0 to thousands of dollars. The lower the deductible, the more the policy will cost and vice versa.
  • Does it have international coverage? Do you want to have insurance only in the country where you are studying or worldwide? For example, if you intend to travel for holidays or visits back home, you should get international health insurance.
  • Does it cover all the items you need? Does it have coverage for pre-existing conditions? Dental? Emergency evacuation? Medication and medical treatment? Maternity?
  • Does it meet your school’s requirements? Many universities have guidelines regarding what type of health insurance their international students must get. Check to see if the policy you wish to purchase will meet their requirements.
  • Does it have a PPO Network? These networks may go by different names, by, in essence, it means that the insurance company has certain “preferred” facilities where you can receive treatment. These facilities have the option to bill the company directly for any expenses, instead of you having to pay and then claim for reimbursement.

How to Get Health Insurance for International Students?

There are three main options international students get health insurance:

  • Through the school. Universities or colleges oftentimes offers international students a health insurance policy which they can subscribe to. In some cases, it is compulsory, other times you can opt-out and choose your own policy elsewhere. If your school offers you an opt-out policy, make sure to read it carefully before making a decision.
  • Private health insurance. Anywhere you go, there will be private health insurance companies. If your school does not offer a plan, you can do your research and buy a student visa-compliant insurance plan from a local company after you arrive at your destination. This is a good option if you do not intend to travel to other countries or return home during your studies.
  • International student health insurance. You can get an international health insurance plan online. International plans are intended for expats, travellers, and international students because they offer coverage in more than one country – as the name suggests. So, if you want to travel around or return home once in a while, you can rest assured you are covered.

You can get international health insurance through comparison websites, such as Insubuy, which allow you to compare plans side-by-side in a detailed manner, before settling on one. Regardless of what type of student health insurance you choose, remember to always read the policy carefully!

When Should You Get Student Insurance?

You can get international health insurance coverage as a student after arriving at your destination country or even before you travel. If you choose to get insurance after travelling, you should do so as soon as you can. You have the following options:

  • Get student insurance from home, before setting off abroad to study. You can get student health insurance from an international insurance company at any point.
  • Get student insurance after arrival, by subscribing to a local insurance company or the insurance plan offered by your school.

What Does Health Insurance for International Students Cover?

Health insurance for international students covers for medical emergencies, illness, and treatment while you are studying abroad. Basic coverage includes the following:

  • Out-patient medical treatment. Receiving medical attention or recovering while not hospitalized. Things such as physician visits, walk-in clinics.
  • In-patient medical treatment. Receiving medical care while hospitalized. Things such as a hospital room, ICU, anaesthesia, surgery.
  • Prescription medication.
  • X-rays and lab work.
  • Emergency medical evacuation. In case you get ill, and you need to receive medical attention in your own country or somewhere else abroad, you will be covered for any resulting costs.
  • Dental emergencies, such as a broken tooth.

Then, depending on the plan, you can have coverage for these as well:

  • Injuries as a result of playing sports.
  • Non-emergency dental coverage, such as checkups, fillings, etc.
  • Pre-existing medical conditions.
  • Maternity.
  • Local ambulances.
  • Mental health.

Can I Include Dependents on My Student Health Insurance?

If your school offers you a health insurance policy to subscribe to, more often than not, you are not allowed to add your dependent family members. If they do allow it, then it will cost much more. If you are not inclined to accept this, you have the following options:

  • Get family health insurance from an international company. If you can opt-out of your school’s plan, then your best option is to get a family health insurance plan. Some companies even allow very young children to be added to the plan at no extra costs.
  • Get international health insurance only for your dependents. If your school has an insurance plan you cannot opt-out of, then you can just purchase a separate international health insurance plan for your family members, while you keep the one offered.

How Much Does International Student Insurance Cost?

The cost of health insurance for international students depends on the following factors:

  • The period of study. If you are only doing a semester abroad, it will cost less than if you were pursuing an entire four-year degree.
  • How much coverage you want. If you add the optional coverage items, such as sports, dental, vision, or maternity, then the price of your policy will increase.
  • Whether you have any dependents. Adding dependents will bring up the price of the policy.
  • Whether it is international insurance. International insurance covers more places, therefore it costs more.
  • Whether you want coverage in the US. Usually, due to the very high cost of healthcare in the United States, health insurance plans that include the US are more expensive than those that do not.

For example, a one-year health insurance plan for an international student in the US can range from $500 to over $1,000 a year.

Remember: Do not choose the cheapest student insurance policy. If it does not cover you adequately, in cases of emergency, it will end up costing you more.

Can You Just Use Your Existing Health Insurance?

If you go to study abroad, you cannot use the health insurance policy you were covered under while you were home. That is because you likely purchased a plan from a local company or you are insured under a public health insurance scheme. Neither of these options offers health coverage abroad. If they do, it is for a very short amount of time.

Travel Health Insurance vs International Student Insurance

If you applied for a Student Visa, then along with the application, you probably had to submit proof you have purchased a travel health insurance plan. So, why can’t you just use that as you continue to live and study abroad? Easy: travel insurance is only for emergencies and short-term, while international student insurance is if you intend to live abroad for an extended period of time.

You can use travel insurance to cover you during the trip and for the short amount of time that it takes to get everything settled with your university, residence permit, and student insurance.

Do I Lose Student Health Insurance If I Get a Job?

If you get a job after graduating and exchange your student visa into a work visa, then you no longer qualify for student insurance. In that case, you have to get regular expat health insurance.

Depending on the country, you may even be eligible for public insurance through the taxes you pay or group insurance offered by your employer.

Can I Be Treated at Student Health Centers?

Yes, some health insurance plans will cover for expenses resulting from seeking treatment in a student health center, up to a certain amount.

How to Make a Health Insurance Claim as an International Student?

When you buy a health insurance plan, you will be able to read a detailed guide of the policy, like a brochure. In it, there should be all the information you need regarding how to make a health insurance claim. If you are not sure, you should contact the company directly to learn.

All international health insurance companies have call centers and helplines, which are available for their costumers to seek help or guidance.

Remember: Always keep any bills, prescriptions, or other documents that prove you received medical attention. You need these when you make a claim.