Many colleges and universities offer group health insurance plans for their international students and visiting scholars. In the past, many students and scholars were able to include their children and spouses (holders of J2 or F2 visas) on their school’s group plan as well. Now, with many schools offering Affordable Care Act compliant group plans, we are seeing a trend where schools are no longer extending coverage to spouses and children, and if they are, they are offering coverage at sometimes double or triple the price.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires all compliant insurance plans to have an unlimited policy maximum, along with coverage for maternity, preventative care, pre-existing conditions with no waiting period, among other benefits. As many schools adopt this type of coverage for their students, they are seeing their rates climb to unprecedented levels to accommodate these new benefits. Carriers are also slowly getting more claims experience as we are now in the second year on these ACA compliant plans, and this experience is showing them that dependents are a leading cause of increased claims. Many dependents do not have authorization to work, and are of the age to start a family – which leads to increased maternity claims, amongst other things, that are expensive in the USA.
As dependents appear to be a leading cause of increased claims in many cases, schools are choosing to make two primary changes to their group insurance plans:
- Remove dependents – Many schools have decided to remove dependent coverage from their plans, forcing spouses and dependents to look elsewhere for coverage. These spouses and children may still need to meet certain insurance minimums set forth by their school, or if they are on a J2 visa, they must also have a plan that meets the Department of State Insurance Requirements.
- Increased premiums – Some schools have decided to keep dependents on their insurance plan, however they have increased the rates, sometimes 2-3 times more than the insurance plan for a regular international student or scholar.
If you are a dependent facing one of these options, you are not alone. There are many dependents that are looking for insurance coverage while they are in the US, looking to stay compliant with their visa and with their school’s health insurance minimums.
If your school is not offering an insurance plan for dependents, or if the plan is out of your price range, then you can purchase an individual insurance plan for your family instead. You’ll need to be aware that many international student specific plans do not allow you to add dependents, because of the high usage rate. To avoid any problems, check the plan’s eligibility to make sure that dependents are eligible first.
There are many plans out there that work great for dependents (with or without the student or scholar), meet the J visa requirements, and are typically more affordable than your school’s group insurance plan. Here are three popular individual plans that work well for dependents depending on how long you need coverage and the type of coverage your family needs:
- Travel Medical
Less than one year
The Travel Medical plan is an excellent options for children and spouses needing coverage for less than one year, and children under 9 are free for each parent that is insured on the plan. This Travel Medical policy covers accidents and illnesses that occur on the plan, including coverage for doctor visits, hospitalization, prescription medication, medical evacuation, repatriation of remains, and more. This plan provides families with flexibility, allowing them to choose the duration of coverage, from as little as 5 days up to 364 days. This plan does not cover wellness, maternity, organized sports, pre-existing conditions or mental health – and will only cover families outside their home country.
- Patriot Travel
Less than two years
The Patriot Travel plan is another excellent option for families needing up to two years of coverage. Like the Travel Medical, it is designed to cover new accidents and illnesses that happen on the plan, and will cover doctor visits, hospitalization, prescriptions, medical evacuation and repatriation of remains. Similarly, it will not cover wellness, maternity, organized sports, pre-existing conditions or mental health, and will only cover families outside their home country. This is an excellent option for families wanting to cover those “just in case” situations, such as colds, injuries, or emergencies, allowing you to purchase one year and renew for a second year.
- Global Medical
One year or more
The Global Medical plan is a great plan for those families either looking for comprehensive coverage, or are needing long-term coverage. This plan provides worldwide coverage, including in your home country, covering accidents and illnesses no matter where they happen. This plan is annually renewable and available in four levels, allowing you to choose the most appropriate coverage. Depending on the plan level, your insurance plan will cover you for maternity, vision, dental, wellness and you can also get coverage for pre-existing conditions. This insurance plan is medical underwritten, so you will need to disclose your medical health history, which will then be evaluated by an underwriter within 5 days of submission. This plan also allow payment flexibility, where you can choose to pay annually, semi-annually, quarterly, or monthly.
If you or someone you know needs help finding dependent coverage, please contact one of our representatives who can help you determine which is the best insurance option for you and your family.