If you are an international student in a US university, you likely already have a health insurance plan. With the COVID-19 pandemic now becoming a real threat to the US as well, you must be wondering if your international student health insurance plan will cover a coronavirus test, if the need arises.

If you are an international student in the US, but you have not purchased a health insurance plan, then you will likely have to pay for a coronavirus test. Because health insurance companies are now involved, there is not an exact price yet.

In the past couple of months, the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has reached pandemic levels, leaving entire cities quarantined with people working and studying from home. While the situation is scary enough, it must be especially worrying to be in a foreign country with a different healthcare system than what you are used to.

How to Get a Coronavirus Test in the US?

Normally, if your doctor believes you’re showing coronavirus symptoms, they will order a coronavirus test on your behalf.

If you feel like you are showing symptoms of the disease, the CDC advises that you first self-isolate and not go outside unless it is for medical purposes. Fortunately, most coronavirus infections are mild and can even be treated at home. The important thing is to keep your distance from other people – especially those who are considered “high-risk”, such as immunocompromised people, someone with a pre-existing condition and the elderly.

If the symptoms persist and become worse (you get a high fever and difficulty breathing), and you believe you need medical care, you should call your doctor or local public health department. They will ask you questions which will assess your situation and likeliness of having the COVID-19. They will also arrange for transportation for you.

If you go to an ER or doctor’s office, you are advised to wear a mask. However, do not go without warning because if you are infected you risk exposing others to it and further spreading the pandemic.

Will International Student Health Insurance Cover Coronavirus Testing in the US?

Yes, it will. On March 18, US President Donald Trump signed a new law that requires most health insurance providers to cover the cost of coronavirus testing. They will also cover the cost of the doctor’s visit and the trip to the emergency room to actually take the test. That means that regardless of your plan and deductible, if you have a health insurance plan, you don’t have to pay for the coronavirus test when a doctor has requested it.

Previously, it was only the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) that could perform the coronavirus test. It was free then as well, but you had to pay for the cost of going to the ER room to receive medical treatment.

These measures were taken by the government in order to make it easier for US nationals and residents to cope with the spread of the coronavirus. Due to the high cost of healthcare in the US, many hesitate to go to a doctor if they know they will be faced with large fees. If someone who is infected with the coronavirus hesitates to test for it, this could only help the spread of the infection in the US country

Along with free testing for the virus, the new law will also provide unemployment benefits, sick leave, and food and medical aid to the people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Will International Student Health Insurance Cover Coronavirus Treatment in the US?

In most cases, student health insurance will cover coronavirus treatment pretty much in the same way as it would any other disease. Therefore, if you get sick and need hospital treatment, the amount of money you will have to pay out of your own pocket will depend on the specific health insurance plan you have. It will not be entirely free, and it will depend on your health insurance policy.

International students in the US usually have three main options of health insurance:

  • Mandatory group health insurance plan provided by your school.
  • Mandatory group health insurance plan (with the option to waive). In this case, you can opt-out of the health insurance plan your school chose, as long as you choose one that your school chooses as adequate.
  • Optional Health Insurance Plan. in this case, you can choose any health insurance plan you wish.

If you have a mandatory group health insurance plan that your school chose, you should read the policy carefully to learn how much it will cover. Look at the deductible, the policy maximum, and learn whether the insurance company has a PPO network.

If you have chosen your own health insurance plan, you should already be familiar with the policy.

How Much Will International Student Health Insurance Cover for Coronavirus Treatment?

To get an idea of how much you would have to pay out-of-pocket for coronavirus treatment in the US, you should:

  • Check the type of health insurance coverage you have:
    • Fixed coverage: there is a fixed amount that the insurance company will pay for every medical procedure, regardless of the total cost of the procedure.
    • Comprehensive coverage: the insurance company will pay a percentage of the overall cost of medical procedures to a certain amount. For any costs over that amount, the insurance company will pay 100% of the costs up to the policy maximum.
  • Check if your health insurance provider has a PPO (Preferred Provider Organization network). If your health insurance policy claims they will only offer coverage for treatment in a hospital in their PPO network, and you receive treatment elsewhere, you could receive a large bill.
  • Check the deductible. The deductible is the amount of money you have to pay out of your own pocket for a medical procedure before the health insurance company begins covering you. For example, if you have a $2,000 deductible, you have to pay $2,000 first, then the company will begin paying.
  • Check the policy maximum. The policy maximum is the maximum amount that the travel health insurance policy will pay for any covered medical services or expenses. The policy maximum changes from plan to plan, and the higher it is, the higher the cost of the plan.

See here for a more detailed breakdown of health insurance plans in the US.