Living in the United States can be quite expensive, in particular for students coming on an F1 visa who very often finance their studies through scholarships or loans. When it comes to the expensive life in the US, even getting sick can be unaffordable if one does not take the necessary measures on time.
Getting ill or involved in an accident in the United States is not something a student can afford. However, things happen. All of a sudden, you find yourself in poor physical health or badly injured, far away from home and family. Worrying about how to pay the unaffordable medical bill is the last thing you need.
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.
Also read: Travel insurance for students
How to Get Health Insurance for International Students in USA?
Here are the steps that you need to go through to get a health insurance coverage for students in USA:
- Check if your school/university/college in the US implements a mandatory group health insurance plan.
- If they do, you will need to ask them if they are included in the tuition bills, or you need to pay them additionally, and then proceed on with completing the payments.
- If they have a mandatory group health insurance plan with an optional waiver, check if it fits you. If it does not, ask them to send you a waiver form and complete steps 2, 3 &4.
- If they do not have any insurance plan, complete steps 2, 3 & 4.
- Check for companies offering health insurance for international students in the US or brokers such as Insubuy
- List the benefits you think are necessary for you (including the waiver form), and compare it with the plans the companies you have checked are offering. Do not forget to check if your dependents can be added to the plan if you plan to bring someone to the US with you.
- Select the most suitable plan for you, and proceed with purchasing it.
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 instutions 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).
Best Health Insurance Plans for International Students in the USA
Here are the best health insurance plans for international students in the USA:
- ExchangeGuard. Offers COVID-19 coverage.
- Patriot Exchange Program. Offers COVID-19 coverage.
- Student Secure. Offers COVID-19 coverage.
- Student Health Advantage. Offers COVID-19 coverage.
- Study USA. Offers COVID-19 coverage.
- Navigator Student. No COVID-19 coverage.
- Patriot America. No COVID-19 coverage.
How to Choose the Best Health Insurance Plan for F1 Students?
When deciding what the best health insurance plan is, you have to keep in mind the following factors:
- The sub-limit of your health insurance. This is basically the maximum sum the plan will cover for a specific medical treatment and for the hospitalization. This is expressed either through a percentage or a price cap and it decides how much of the medical bill will be covered by the healthcare provider and how much you have to pay yourself.
- Where you purchase your health insurance. Sometimes foreign students may want to purchase a health insurance plan from a company in their own country. However, even though it may be more tempting, purchasing your health insurance in the US is the easier option simply because it is easier to process claims – hospitals can bill your treatment costs directly to your provider.
- If you have purchased health insurance from a foreign company, you may have to pay the cost of your treatment yourself first, and then request to have the money reimbursed. This may not always happen.
- The school’s requirements. Look at things such as the coverage, the policy maximum, etc.
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 (Dependent) Visa insurance plan, which offers more flexibility regarding the coverage your dependents receive.