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Insurance Helps Students Avoid Enormous Costs of Healthcare

11 August 2012

Many international students come from countries where they rarely have to worry about buying health insurance, but this is a very important consideration in America where the costs of healthcare can be very high. GoldenPathGuide.com had a talk with Apinant Hoontrakul, marketing and communication specialist at International Student Insurance, about why students should think about health insurance when they plan to study in the U.S.

GoldenPathGuide.com: Would you tell our readers a bit about why they need to buy health insurance when living in the U.S.?

Apinant Hoontrakul: Unlike other countries in the world, there is no national healthcare system in the USA. If you do not have health insurance you will be expected to pay for your own medical bills, and the USA is one of the most expensive healthcare systems in the world; for example one overnight hospital stay could cost as much as $3,000 - $5,000.  As an international student traveling to the U.S., you need to be prepared and ready to purchase private medical insurance and this article will help you navigate the insurance waters.

GPG: Is it mandatory to have health insurance while studying in the US?

Apinant Hoontrakul: For students who are traveling on the J-1 visa, you will be required to show proof of health insurance to apply for that visa – the current levels are a $50,000 policy maximum, $10,000 for evacuation and $7,500 for repatriation. If you are traveling under any other visa category, such as F-1, M-1, etc., you are not required to have health insurance as part of your visa. Health insurance requirements are instead determined by your school and most schools will offer a health insurance plan for international students. Although some schools require you to purchase the school plan, most schools will allow you to purchase your own plan and waive out of the school plan, as long as your plan meets certain requirements. Many students prefer to buy their own plan, as it can be significantly less expensive than the school plan.

GPG: Do all universities provide health insurance for international students? If yes, what is the role of independent insurance providers like your company?

Apinant Hoontrakul: Some colleges and university do provide health insurance for their international students. Many times the school’s insurance plan can be very expensive costing over $1,000 to $2,000 or more for a year of coverage. Independent insurance providers such as International Student Insurance are excellent options for many international students as we offer individual health insurance plans that are designed to meet schools’requirements, while still being competitively priced. Without providers like us, students in all cases would be forced to pay the high cost of school insurance plans and would have no alternative options.

GPG: How much do students save on average by buying your plans?

Apinant Hoontrakul: Savings can range anywhere from $100 all the way up to over $800 in some cases. The amount  depends on the cost of your school’s insurance plan, your age and a few other factors.

GPG: If students buy their own insurance plan, what plans are available to them and how frequently do they need to purchase coverage?

Apinant Hoontrakul: All insurance plans vary, so it’s common to find a whole range of different options on the market. Standard in nearly all plans are hospitalization, doctors visits, evacuation, repatriation and prescription medications. Then there are optional coverage benefits such as maternity, mental health, pre-existing condition coverage after 6 or 12 months, sports coverage, etc… Students will need to look at the plan benefits, make sure they meet their school’s requirements and then make the choices based on their needs.

In terms of payment frequency, most plans can be purchased and paid for monthly, but students will typically need to show coverage for the semester they are enrolling for.

GPG: What are the important things to think about when purchasing an insurance policy?

Apinant Hoontrakul: The most important thing to remember when you are looking for an insurance plan is that you should not just look at the price! No insurance plan is the same and you should read the detailed benefits and exclusion of each plan. For example, two insurance plans may advertise $250,000 in medical coverage, however one plan may only pay $1,300 per day if you were to be hospitalized while the other plan pays the full cost with no limit. These internal limitations are a huge pitfall for international students and could end up in a large hospital bill if you are sick or injured.

For more tips on what to look for when buying international health insurance we have a great online article to help you understand.

GPG: Do all schools in the US accept insurance from providers like your company?

Apinant Hoontrakul: Most schools allow international students to purchase their own health insurance and waive out of their school’s insurance plan. Many schools will have minimum levels of coverage that students will need to meet, and a few schools mandate that you must buy the school plan and cannot waive out.  Your school’s website will often have detailed information for you, and you can always find your school insurance requirements here:  http://www.internationalstudentinsurance.com/school_requirements/

GPG: Can students buy the insurance when they are still in their home country? What documents do they need to provide in order to get the insurance (I20, passport, letter of acceptance from school…)?

Apinant Hoontrakul: Many insurance providers will allow you to buy insurance from anywhere in the world, before you leave your home country or even after you have already arrived in the US. The application process will be slightly different depending on which insurance company you choose so you should contact the company you are interested in to see what you need in order to apply. International Student Insurance allows you complete the entire application online and you do not need to submit any additional documents when applying

GPG: Do plans provide coverage outside the U.S.?

Apinant Hoontrakul: Most schools’ insurance plans will only cover you while you are an international student at the school. Outside insurance companies can offer a wider range of products that provide coverage all over the world outside your home country. Make sure your plan is designed to travel with you so even if you are studying in another country or just traveling for vacation, you can be sure that you have insurance no matter where you are.

GPG: Can families get insurance through the school or must they buy from an outside provider when they are visiting students in the US?

Apinant Hoontrakul: Most schools will allow dependent coverage, this is coverage for family members, but it will be generally more expensive and often has reduced benefits. If that is the case, or your school does not allow dependent coverage, there are a number of plans available on the market that they can purchase to provide coverage just for family members.

Here are some steps to take to obtain the right insurance policy for you:

1) Find out if your college allows you to buy insurance from another company or are you require to only buy the insurance plan offered by the school with no option for anything else. If you are able to purchase another plan, find out if there is a set of required benefits that you need to have (some college may not have any minimum requirements at all).

2) Do you need if any benefits that is specific to your own medical needs (Will you be playing any sports? Will you be traveling with a family? Do you need pregnancy coverage? Do you have any pre-existing medical conditions, do you need to meet any specific visa requirements set by the government? etc.)

3) Contact insurance companies to find out if there is a plan that meets your need.

GPG: Thank you.

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