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Health Insurance Requirements You Must Know as an International Student In the US

The burning question that troubles every foreign student’s mind who is planning to enroll at an international college or university in the United States is this: how to get adequate health insurance coverage while on a student visa? It is a requirement of many universities that international students must have secured health insurance in the US before they are enrolled in the university.

The health insurance cost varies across different universities and states in the country. Some universities even have their own healthcare plans that a student is required to enroll. Here is some general information that every student who is planning to enroll in a US-based college or university must know.

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Thousands of international students travel to the US every year to enroll in some of the best colleges and universities in the world.

Health Insurance Requirements According To The Category Of Visa

The students who come under exchange programs are given a J-1 visa while their dependents come in the US under the J-2 visa category. They have to obtain health insurance according to their visa category and its duration depends upon the duration of the program of their enrollment. However, students who come under the F-1 visa category have no requirement of getting any insurance plan, according to the State Department. Since there is no specific requirement of subscribing to health insurance under the F-1 visa category, therefore universities also do not specify any mandatory student’s health insurance under F-1 visa category.

According to the CEO of the student council for international students, even if any government or university mandate does not require enrollment in the insurance program, still it is in the best interest of students that they enroll in any medical insurance plan because medical in the US is very expensive and not everyone can afford it. In fact, even a small medical emergency can cause students a significant amount of hardship in monetary terms. Therefore, it is highly recommended that all students and their dependents, whether international or not, should enroll in a health insurance plan, one which suits their needs.

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Without an adequate health insurance package, international students can become bound to pay thousands of dollars in healthcare costs in cases of emergency.

In Texas, students coming under the J-1, J-2, and F-1 and F-2 visa categories are required to purchase an insurance plan before their enrollment in the university. Health insurance requirements are the same for the University of California according to its International Students and Scholars Office. Students are expected to be familiar with the health system in the United States in general and also specific to their university rules and State in which they are going to stay. Insurance plans and coverage types are of so many different categories in the US that good knowledge and decision making is required to decide the place of treatment.

University-Based Health Insurance Plans

At some schools, it is mandatory to subscribe to the health insurance plan sponsored by the school. Other schools either do not have a sponsored health insurance plan or they allow students to select their own. Health coverage under some plan is mandatory in almost all scenarios. It is easy to reach out to the International Students’ Affairs department to get this information if it has not been provided to the prospective student at some stage of the selection process.

For example, Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) has a sponsored program that provides coverage to the students through United Healthcare, and it is mandatory. The only exceptions at FDU are the students who already have insurance through their government-sponsorship or students who, having employment category visa, already have insurance coverage provided from their employers. Another condition is that the coverage must be better than the one that FCU-sponsored health insurance provides.

International students are provided a grace period of 6 weeks after joining the university to ensure coverage or apply for a waiver. After six weeks, automatic coverage is completed by the university and charged to the student.

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To ensure that their international student body has adequate health insurance, some universities in the US offer well-designed health insurance packages to make healthcare both affordable and easy to access.

The Berkley’s University of California also follows the same procedure and their plan is called the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP). It covers all features of a basic insurance plan and also includes vision and dental services.

With very low and fixed co-pay for most services ($10-40), it is a great plan at a really good negotiated price. Similar policies are being implemented at the University Of Southern California (USC). At USC, if the students have opted for a waiver because they are already covered under a better plan by their employer or government-sponsorships, then they have to confirm the status of their waiver twice a year.

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