Selecting the right medical insurance when studying abroad
Medical insurance..it’s one of those things students either avoid or ignore altogether when preparing to study abroad. I could tell you stories about the inconveniences of having to pay your medical costs up front or finding the closest hospital while you’re traveling in a country where you don’t speak the language. But instead I’ll encourage you to just mull over this thought – you’re in another country on the other side of the world, would you really want to break a leg, or worse, be close to death on a hospital bed without insurance?
Most states will require you to participate in a student health insurance program or in a health benefit plan while you’re abroad. First check to see if your current plan or the plan you are under covers you abroad, and second, if it covers you beyond the basic trip to the ER. If not, here are a few steps for finding the right coverage.
Study Abroad Medical Insurance: What You Should Know Beforehand
- Research indicates that most study abroad students don’t have comprehensive insurance for travel outside the U.S. (even though they assume they do).
- Parents’ plans often offer limited coverage outside the U.S. or are restricted in the coverage length.
- Students need to be aware of their limits of coverage (pre-existing conditions, deductibles, reimbursement, etc.).
- Students should understand that medical care outside the U.S. may operate differently from those in the U.S. and aren’t subject to the same rules and regulations.
Study Abroad Medical Insurance: Choosing The Right Coverage Provider
- Does the insurance plan meet all requirements of both the country you are traveling to and the program you are studying abroad through?
- Are there specific health insurance requirements in order to get a visa to enter the country you are studying in?
- Does the insurance provider limit or exclude coverage of any services or pre-existing conditions?
- Are there limits on which doctors, hospitals or other medical facilities you can go to?
- Will you have access to emergency assistance services or an emergency hotline that can direct you to the nearest medical facilities or help explain treatment options?
- Does the insurance plan cover Emergency Medical Evacuation and Repatriation?
- Repatriation: As morbid as it sounds, should you die abroad, repatriation insurance covers the cost of transporting the body back to the U.S.
Reimbursement For Medical Expenses
- Do you have to pay for services up front and submit for reimbursement later?
- What specific information is required from doctors or hospitals in order to be reimbursed?
- Will you be required to submit all claims in English and in US dollars?
Study Abroad Medical Insurance: Suggested Minimum Coverage Requirements
- Coverage of up to $50,000 per illness or injury
- Coverage provided worldwide
- Emergency medical evacuation
- Repatriation of Remains
- 24-hour Travel Assistance Service
Study Abroad Medical Insurance: A Few Coverage Options
1. School Sponsored Insurance Plans
Look into whether or not your home college or university offers a student health insurance plan. This is pretty common among schools with well established and organized study abroad offices. More often than not, if your school does provide an insurance program, you’ll actually have to physically sign a waiver if you don’t want to participate in it.
Your ISIC provides basic sickness and accident coverage including emergency evacuation insurance, repatriation and accidental death or loss/ use of limb(s) coverage. A letter outlining the policy is included with the card.
3. Independent Insurance Plans
You can always apply independently for an individual insurance plan through providers that work specifically with either study abroad students or international travelers. Reputable names include:
And finally, make sure to take a copy of your health insurance card and important policy information with you both when you head to your abroad location as well as all other travels.
I can’t stress enough how important having quality insurance is when studying abroad. I once had to make a trip to an international hospital in Beijing, and the cost for the visit plus my medication combined was over $200 – the equivalent of my round trip ticket to Shanghai. Luckily, my study abroad program had provided us with a comprehensive medical plan which covered the entire thing, but had they not, my travel fund would’ve taken a big hit. Give your wallet a break and put your mind at ease by selecting the right medical insurance when studying abroad.
If you have any other questions or comments please feel free to leave them below and I’ll get back to you!