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It’s That Time Again: Now Announcing the 2016 Travel Video Contest!

September 6th, 2016 by Sutherland Beever

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Get your video cameras ready and your creative juices flowing because now is your chance to earn $4,000!

Let’s be honest, writing, shooting and editing an amazing video about your travel experiences doesn’t happen overnight, but with a bit of hard work and a dash of creativity, your video submission could earn you the title of Grand Prize winner!

Here’s What You Need to know for your Shot at the Grand Prize:

InternationalStudent.com hosts a Travel Video Contest every year for students to let their imaginations run wild and become real life filmmakers, tasked with creating their own travel-themed videos. The rules are pretty straight forward: current international students need to create a video (less than 5 minutes long) about a trip that they want to take in the future, and students who have yet to study abroad should create a video about the experiences and knowledge they will gain as an international student.

Create a film to move us or inspire us – the choice is yours.  After all, you are the filmmaker.

Here are Three Insider Tips to get you Started:

  1. Be Yourself – It sounds easy, right? The Travel Video Contest is all about telling a story as unique as you are, so let your personality shine throughout your video.
  2. Don’t Underestimate the Power of Editing – You only have 5 minutes to tell your story, so every second counts! After you’ve gotten most of your video finished, show it to a few friends or family members for their feedback. If your story lulls in places or if some pieces don’t quite fit, take it out! The contest rules state that there’s nothing wrong with your video being less than 5 minutes in length, it just can’t be over.
  3. Quality is Everything – This should come without saying, but the most emotionally driven video submission in the world won’t amount to much if we can’t hear the dialog. Feel free to shoot the video with any camera you would like, but it’s important that the quality of your video is up to par with past winners. Clear, crisp voices, visuals and music is key!

Dates to Remember:

  • Submission Deadline: October 14, 2016
  • Finalists Announced: The week of November 7, 2016
  • Winners announced: November 18, 2016

May the best video win!

I Don’t Have Insurance, But Have Medical Bills To Pay!

August 1st, 2016 by Sutherland Beever

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You’re young. You’re healthy. And then out of nowhere you’re faced with a medical emergency, spend some time in the hospital and are now forced with astronomical medical bills to pay.

What Now?

First things first: don’t get discouraged. It would be easy to stash away your medical bills in a drawer, or sit them far back on a shelf to collect dust, but the fact is that these bills won’t disappear. And most importantly, you are much, much more likely to receive financial assistance if you work with the provider before the bill is sent to a collection agency.

Luckily, there are many steps that you can take to help your situation and potentially even lower your outstanding bills!

Step One: Write a Letter of Hardship to the Provider

It’s important to keep in mind that hospitals are well aware that paying medical bills without insurance can be extremely difficult, so generally they will work with you to find a reasonable way to help you pay off your debt, and can even help lower the overall amount that you owe. Of course all of these great things can’t happen if you don’t ask. This is where a letter of hardship can help save the day.

If you genuinely have no means to pay the medical bills that you now owe, it would be in your best interest to write a letter to the provider letting them know of your situation and your inability to pay. Be sure to include the fact that you are an international student, unfamiliar with the US healthcare system, and any additional information that could help your case. Depending on the amount owed and your personal situation, a provider may write off a good portion, specific services, or even your entire bill! If you don’t receive a response to your letter within a few weeks, be sure to follow-up with a phone call to reconfirm your situation.Of course this isn’t a guarantee, but it’s worth your time to try!

Tip: At the end of the day, it’s important to keep in mind that hospitals are still businesses and they want to be paid for their services – even if it’s not the whole amount that is owed.

Step Two: Ensure that your Bills Are Correct

This step can be time consuming, but it’s worth every moment. It’s especially important to check your bills if you spent a long period in the hospital or had a complicated procedure, as it is possible that a portion of the bill that you’ve received isn’t right. The most common errors tend to be that you’ve been billed for services or medications that you didn’t actually receive. Take into consideration the time that you stayed in the hospital as well. Sometimes if you’ve checked out in the morning you could have been charged for a full day, adding thousands of dollars to your bill.

Tip: According to the Medical Billing Advocates of America, eight in 10 hospital bills include mistakes.

Step Three: Prepare to Negotiate

It’s important to note that the US healthcare system is setup for individuals to have health insurance. Without insurance you will be paying a substantial amount more for the medical treatment that you receive, compared to someone who does have insurance and receives deep in-network discounts. If a letter of distress to the provider doesn’t lower your bill enough, or at all, the next step is to try to negotiate.

As mentioned before, providers want to get paid – even if they don’t receive as much as they’ve billed you for, so you likely have some room to negotiate at least a small portion of the amount that you owe.  In order to do so, it’s important that you are armed with information to help your cause. Check nearby hospitals to discern how much they would have charged for the procedure that you had. If the provider that you visited is charging grossly more, this could be a good negotiating point!

Tip: You can get information on how much providers charge for given treatments from a variety of websites, including  Clear Health Cost and  Healthcare Blue Book.

Step Four: Set Up a Payment Plan

Regardless if you were able to negotiate a lower overall balance or not, providers know that a huge medical bill broken down into small, manageable payments is much more likely to be paid off, so call the provider and ask if they can set up an interest free payment plan. It’s important to speak to the right person and let them know of your situation, and that you’re trying to pay off your debt but lack the income to do so right away.

Tip: Keep in mind that someone who is simply sympathetic to your situation can’t help you – be sure to speak to someone higher up in the billing department directly for the most assistance.

The bottom line is that medical emergencies are never planned, but are always costly.  Luckily for you, there are countless resources available to help you negotiate and even lower your bill, as well as set up payment plans.  Don’t let your bills overwhelm you. As dim as the situation may seem, you can work your way out of it!

Individual or Group Insurance – What is Right for My Group?

July 11th, 2016 by Jennifer Frankel

http://www.internationalstudentinsurance.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/selection.jpgMany schools and organizations come to us trying to figure out how to best manage their insurance plan. Deciding whether an individual or group insurance plan is best for your students can be difficult, and will depend on your process, how much control (and how involved) you want over the insurance, ease of administration, and various other factors. Your answers to these, and other questions, will help you make the final decision as to whether a group or individual insurance plan would be more suitable.

This blog is designed to provide schools and organizations with an overview of the differences between a group or individual plan and will evaluate the main issues to help inform your decision about how to best implement your insurance plan.

  1. Payment Method – The main difference between group and individual insurance plans are how the insurance premiums are paid and settled. With a group plan, the cost of insurance is covered by the school or group, typically through a monthly or one-time invoice. This allows the cost of the insurance plan to be built into the trip cost or student’s tuition. With an individual plan, on the other hand, the cost of the insurance plan is paid for by the participants directly, thereby relieving the school or organization from having to collect insurance premium and make payment.

    Note: If students are paying monthly on an individual plan, it’s important to know that billing issues could arise where there could be a lapse of payment. The insurance will typically notify the student and provide a grace period to make the overdue charge. If payment is not received, however, the policy will end and you may not even know! To prevent this, it is suggested that students always pre-pay for the required period, or you institute a group plan to avoid this happening.
  2. Benefits & Cost – Group insurance plans typically have richer benefits and are typically offered at a lower cost, since they are able to rely on the law of numbers and a random pool of participants to outweigh the risk. With this in mind, group insurance plans can often be customized to include coverage for maternity, pre-existing conditions, etc. in ways that individual plans cannot. This is because with individual plans, insurance carriers have to be wary of adverse selection, making sure that not only the people who are in need of the insurance, buy it, but those who don’t need it buy the plan as well. In some cases, group insurance plans are less costly as group discounts may be offered depending on the number of participants enrolled.

    >>Learn more about important benefits to consider
  3. Knowing Your Coverage – One of the advantages of having a group plan is that you know what coverage your participants have, and you are also familiar with the process to seek treatment, file a claim, and get help when necessary. You can make sure that the insurance benefits will be well designed to meet the needs of their international experience (i.e., include sports coverage, maternity, etc.), and don’t have to worry about students being enrolled on sub-par plans. With individual plans, you would not have this same control as students would be able to purchase the coverage they want, and benefits, claims processes, etc. could vary quite considerably. If you would like an individual plan for your students, here are the most common ways to manage this:

    • Leaving students on their own
    • Require minimum coverage
    • Mandating one or more insurance options

    >>Learn more about each option online in our Best Practice Guide

  4. Duration of Coverage – Group plans allow the plan administrator to ensure all participants/students are covered for the exact coverage dates they need. Typically groups coincide the dates of coverage with their travel dates or with the academic term, making sure students are fully covered during their time abroad or while enrolled in their courses. On an individual plan, the participant is the one that selects the start and end date of their insurance, and while many schools and organizations require that students have coverage during a specified period of time, students may not always purchase the correct period of coverage. This can create extra administration, as you would need to check each participant’s coverage to make sure they have the correct coverage dates.
  5. Account Management – Most group plans offer a higher level of customer service through a dedicated account manager who is assigned to help you every step of the way. This point person can assist with all aspects of your insurance plan so that things are quickly and easily resolved. If students are purchasing their coverage on their own, you might not have an account manager in this setup, as plans could be purchases from a wide variety of providers. You may, however, be able to establish a good relationship with one insurance company if you are referring all your students to purchase coverage there, so that could be something you could explore.>>Learn more about service and support options

When it comes to deciding whether an individual or group insurance plan is right for you, there is a lot to think about! If you are in the process of deciding how best to implement your insurance, please feel free to contact us directly as we’d be happy to walk you through the process and determine which option is best for you. You can also check out our Best Practices Guide which provides even more details about important considerations of your insurance plan.

Does International Student Health Insurance Cover Everything?

June 30th, 2016 by Bryanna Davis

does health insurance cover everythingHealth insurance can provide peace of mind against high medical bills when studying outside your home country – especially while in the US. However, not all insurance plans are the same, and as a buyer it’s important that you research the plan you’re considering and understand what it will cover before an injury or illness strikes.

One common question that we receive is: “Does international student health insurance cover everything?” and the answer is a simple one: no. Every health insurance plan will have items that are not covered on the plan, also known as exclusions. Although each plan will have exclusions, this doesn’t mean that you need to take a gamble when it comes to having health insurance, but it does mean that it’s imperative for you to check out both the benefits (items that are covered on the plan) and the exclusions of the plan that you’re interested in.

Why Do Plans Have Exclusions?
Insurance plans have exclusions in order to contain costs, and keep the annual premium at a reasonable level. If a plan covered everything, without any limitation, the cost of insurance would be so high, and more than likely not offer you much financial relief compared to your actual medical bills. If you have certain benefits that you want included in your plan then it’s important to look for those specific items to be covered in the plan you buy.

One important thing to always remember, although you might not find a plan that covers “everything,” it is possible to find a plan that covers everything you need.

What Benefits Are Often Excluded?
Each insurance plan is unique, so the key is to explore the exclusions of every plan you’re considering. To give you an idea of the most common exclusions, let’s take a look at two plan types that most students would be looking at: an International Student Health plan and an International Travel Medical plan.

International Travel Medical
International Travel Medical plans don’t require the purchaser to be a student as they’re designed to cover individuals who need short-term coverage outside their home country. Because of this, these plans do not typically include some of the more comprehensive benefits that International Student Health Insurance plans include. Common exclusions on an International Travel Medical plan often include mental health, maternity, pre-existing conditions, wellness (including vision and dental), organized sports, elective surgery, drug and alcohol abuse, injuries from drug and alcohol abuse, congenital illnesses, STD’s and self inflicted injury.

International Student Health Insurance
International Student Health Insurance plans are designed to meet the needs of international students and scholars like you. Because of this, there are specific coverage items that you can count on a majority of international student plans having- and excluding. Just like on a Travel Medical plan you can still expect to find common exclusions like wellness, elective surgery, drug and alcohol abuse, injuries from drug and alcohol abuse, congenital illnesses, STD’s and self inflicted injury.

Although student plans can be comprehensive and provide coverage for items like maternity, mental health, organized sports and pre-existing conditions, you will find that some conditions, although covered, will require you to fulfill a waiting period before they’re able to be treated. For example, if the plan under consideration has a six month waiting period for pre-existing conditions then you will need to be on the plan for six months before you’re able to have coverage for your pre-existing condition. Benefits that often have a waiting period (if included in the plan) are maternity, mental health, wellness, and pre-existing conditions.

What Benefits Do I Need?
Every international student will have varying needs when it comes to specific benefits but there are a few key items that your school (or your visa) might require you to have. The first step is to check with your school and see what requirements they want you to meet with your plan (if any).

If your school doesn’t require you to have a plan or if they only require you to have basic coverage, keep in mind that it’s still important to find a plan that will provide you with the protection you need- beyond your school’s checklist. Sometimes the school-required coverage isn’t enough as an international student or depending on your personal situation. For example, if you’ll need treatment for a medical condition that you had prior to buying a health insurance plan, it’s important to find a plan that includes coverage for pre-existing conditions, and that you notate any waiting periods related to the plan’s pre-existing condition coverage.

If your school requires you to find a plan that will meet a long list of requirements, keep in mind that you also need to make sure the plan you find will include the coverage you need. For your own protection, international students, scholars and travelers need to have coverage for a few key items- even if your school or visa doesn’t require you to:

  • Outpatient and Inpatient Medical Coverage
  • Emergency Medical Evacuation
  • Repatriation of Remains

If you need certain items included in a plan, whether to meet a certain requirement, or to simply give you the coverage you need, it is possible to find a plan that is designed specifically with student needs in mind, like the Student Secure plan.

What Else Should I Know About Coverage?
When reviewing a plan you might find that some plans do appear to include everything. However, upon closer inspection you will discover that it has internal caps. Because of this, not only should you be aware of and look into the exclusions on a plan, but it’s also important to know about internal caps and if any benefits of the plan you’re considering have them. Although a plan might have a high overall coverage amount listed and cover numerous items, the more you dive into the plan details you may find that it will only cover certain items up to a certain amount or for a specific number of days- this is an internal cap. Many plans have internal caps, but it’s important to know what international caps the plan you’re considering has and ensure that it isn’t too restrictive so you can still receive coverage if the need does arise.

High School Year Abroad – Do I Need Special Coverage?

May 17th, 2016 by Ross Mason

high school year abroadThe popularity of international high school programs is increasing as students and parents are looking for an international education at a much earlier age. In the USA alone, there are an estimated 73,000 international high school students studying full-time and this number has tripled in the last 10 years. When you factor in other country destinations such as the UK, Ireland and Australia, for example, the trends are clearly showing a very strong demand for secondary education programs abroad.

While the number of programs and providers are increasing, there is very little written about what you need to consider in terms of your insurance coverage when undertaking a high school year abroad. With this post, we will cover the core topics to make sure you have the most appropriate and comprehensive insurance coverage possible.

Healthcare System

When considering your healthcare options, you first need to understand the healthcare system in the country you will be studying in. You will want to find out if there is a nationalized healthcare system and decide whether you will need to purchase private health insurance.

If there is a national healthcare system, in many cases you might be able to join or pay into that system to get basic healthcare. While this might sound like a great option, you will also need to consider the level of care you will receive under the system and whether there are any waiting periods before your healthcare begins. Many nationalized healthcare systems offer fantastic, world-class care – however there could be longer waiting periods to seek treatment (if it is not an emergency situation), and there is typically no coverage for travel related benefits such as evacuation, reunion and trip interruption (we will talk more about those benefits further in this post). There is also the possibility that you may have a waiting period – anywhere from 3 to 12 months – to join a nationalized healthcare system. Either way, you might want to look at extra or supplemental health insurance which would allow you to obtain immediate private medical care (if needed) and the optional benefits that will not be present through a nationalized system.

Of course, if there is no nationalized healthcare system, it is imperative that you arrange medical coverage from day 1, and in many cases your school will require this.

Host-Country or Home-Country Plans?

When looking at insurance options, there are typically a few choices available to you – you can either purchase a plan that is available in your home country to specifically cover you abroad, or you can purchase a plan in your host-country where you will be studying. There are pros and cons to each option, but typically we recommend purchasing an insurance plan that is available in your host country. These plans will be specifically set up to work with the healthcare system in that country, so they will know how to process claims, have a large network of participating providers and your travel assistance will be in the same country and timezone. You might also find that your school will be much happier with this choice too, as they will be more familiar with an insurance plan located in your destination country (and you won’t have to worry about language barriers!).

Benefit Considerations

While standard benefits such as doctor’s visits, hospitalization, prescription medications, etc. are common in most plans, when undertaking a high school program you will want to consider these benefits:

Sports Coverage – as a high school student, there is a strong possibility that you will be involved on your school’s sports team. In many insurance plans, these types of activities are excluded so be sure to check!

Emergency Evacuation – an evacuation benefit will typically bring you to the nearest qualified medical facility to treat you, should you need urgent medical care, but in many cases this benefit will also take you back to your home country if you have had a life threatening or major incident.

Repatriation – in the unfortunate event that you were to pass away while abroad, this benefit will bring you back home.

Reunion – the most standard reunion benefits will bring a close relative to your bedside should there be a major injury/illness.

Trip Interruption – if you learn of a death in the family, trip interruption will pay for you to fly home and be with your family.

Personal Liability – if you are staying with a host family, a liability benefit will protect you from any unintentional accidents that can happen. For example, if you knock over the brand new 55 inch TV your host father just purchased, your liability insurance will kick in to cover the replacement of something like this.

Travel Benefits – there are a string of travel related benefits that could be something you would want coverage for, the most popular being lost/stolen luggage, lost document assistance and trip delay benefits.

 

Most of these items are standard in nearly all international insurance plans, so you should be fully covered for the majority of these items. However, if you are relying on a national healthcare system, these are items that would not be covered and would require you to purchase additional insurance to have access to these benefits.

For further details about high school year abroad insurance coverage and options, please do not hesitate to contact us, or visit our high school insurance page for more details.

Capped Benefits: Know the Pitfalls and Dangers!

April 19th, 2016 by Jennifer Frankel

danger

With most insurance plans, there will always be marketing materials such as brochures or a table of benefits that explains the benefits of that particular plan. While this may give you a bird’s eye view of your plan, this is NOT the official policy wording of your policy and you might be surprised to find out that the benefits you thought you had are in fact capped at a lower benefit amount! But why?

In this blog we are going to explore the concept of capped benefits, what they are, and how to spot them so you know what your insurance plan does – and doesn’t – cover.

What Are Capped Benefits?

Health insurance plans may have limitations on benefits, regardless of the overall coverage on your policy. These limits, also known as capped benefits, reduce your coverage by either:

  1. Putting a maximum dollar amount on a certain benefit (i.e., hospitalization is covered up to $600/day)
  2. Putting a maximum number of days a benefit is covered (i.e., medicine is covered for 30 days)

In both examples, you could have an insurance plan that covers you up to $500,000, but you would be stuck with a large bill since your policy would stop paying after a certain dollar amount or after a certain period of time.

Example 1. Let’s explore the first scenario where hospitalization is covered up to $600 per day. Hospitalization in the US can cost thousands of dollars every day that you are in the hospital, so if you have an insurance plan that covers only $600 each day, you’d have to pay the remainder of your bill out of pocket.

Example 2. Now, let’s explore the second scenario where you have a condition that requires you to take medication daily. In this scenario, your insurance plan would cover your medication for the first 30 days, but after you would have to pay the full cost of your prescriptions. This may break the bank as some prescriptions can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

In either example, however, it’s important to know how your plan works so that you can budget appropriately! Many international students look for the most affordable plan, but these plans can have these capped benefits. If you need to use the plan, you may find that it wasn’t very economical after all -especially after paying for both the insurance and the portion of the medical bills not covered. Typically, if you pay a little more, you can find a plan without these caps.

But how do you know if your plan has capped benefits?

How To Spot Capped Benefits

As you can imagine, capped benefits can increase the amount you pay out of pocket, and with some insurance plans these limits are hidden! Oftentimes insurance companies provide a summary of benefits in an easy-to-read table that details what is covered on your plan, and they might have a great brochure that summarizes coverage. It’s important that you know that this is NOT the policy wording, and that there may be key pieces of information that isn’t explained in the table or marketing material.

While many insurance companies include this information in their materials so that the consumer knows what they are buying – not all companies do this! To prevent any unwanted surprises, along with large medical bills, it’s important that BEFORE you purchase the plan you ask the insurance company for your policy wording. There are many ways to refer to this document but the most common are:

  • Master Policy
  • Description of Coverage
  • Certificate of Coverage
  • Policy Wording

While this document may seem lengthy and a bit daunting (yes, it really does look and read like a contract!), it’s important to read through the benefit descriptions to make sure you understand how the benefits are applied. After all, this is the document that the insurance company uses to process your claims.

To learn more about other out of pocket expenses that may come up on your insurance plan, read our Understanding Out of Pocket Expenses article.

4 Tips for an Easy Insurance Waiver Process

March 21st, 2016 by Sutherland Beever

Finding an insurance policy that meets both your personal and school qualifications can be tough.  Luckily the waiver process is easy.

Waivers 101:

It is common for colleges and universities in the U.S. to allow their international students to “waive” a school-sponsored health insurance plan, and instead purchase a plan of their own choosing – provided that it meets a list of school-mandated requirements.

In order to prove to your school that you’ve purchased an insurance plan meeting their guidelines, your school may require that you complete a waiver form. Of course all waiver forms are different, but typically includes the following:

  • A student section, requiring your name, date of birth and signature
  • A list of benefits that your alternative plan must include, such as coverage for sports, maternity and mental health
  • The specific dates that your insurance coverage needs to be active
  • A section to be completed by the insurance company, which typically requires a signature and date

For reference, these waiver forms tend to be between 1-2 pages long and can be downloaded from your school’s website, or provided from the health services or international office on campus.

Now that you know what a waiver is and what it’s used for, let’s get into our 4 tips for an easy insurance waiver process!

Tip 1: Start Early!  The trick to getting your waiver completed and back to your school on time is simply starting the process as quickly as possible. After you’ve taken the time to track down a plan that meet your school requirements, it’s important to keep in mind that sections of  your waiver form may need to also be completed by the insurance company. For reference, this process generally takes between 2-3 business days (meaning that weekends don’t count!), so don’t forget to add in a few extra days when creating a timeline for your waiver form.

Tip 2: Read Your Waiver Carefully!  Before you begin the search for your insurance plan, be sure to read and re-read your waiver requirements. Oftentimes schools won’t accept your waiver if it’s overdue, or if every requirement isn’t met, so knowing what your school will accept ahead of time can make a huge difference!

Tip 3: Don’t Forget to Sign!  The majority of waivers aren’t complete without your signature! Oftentimes waivers have a section for the insurance company to complete as well as a student portion – which requires your name, insurance policy number, as well as your date of birth and of course, your autograph. Keep in mind that the form can’t be completed until the ‘student portion’ of your waiver is filled out, so be sure to include your signature to avoid delays.

Tip 4: When in Doubt, Ask for Help!  We know first-hand how confusing health insurance terminology can be, so when in doubt, contact us! Our licensed health insurance agents can help you find the best plan for your budget and can help confirm which of our plans will best meet your school requirements. It’s also important to remember that simply buying a plan that your school will accept isn’t nearly as important as knowing how to use your insurance in case you need it. We’re available Monday through Friday to help answer your insurance questions, find a doctor that will accept your plan, and explain your out of pocket expenses.

Now that you’re armed with these helpful tips, be sure to find a plan that meets all of your insurance waiver requirements, and don’t hesitate to contact us for help.

Why you Need an International Student Insurance Plan you can Renew

February 23rd, 2016 by Bryanna Davis


If you’re like many other international students who come to the US to study, you’ll be pursuing your degree for a few years. In turn, this also means you will need a health insurance plan that you can keep during that time. While it might initially seem like a good idea to purchase a health insurance plan for a few months or maybe just one year to “test it out,” this can cause a few problems down the line- especially if you have a condition that develops while on your plan- or if you come to the United States with a pre-existing condition.

Before we go into why this could cause a few problems, first, it’s key to understand what a pre-existing condition is. A pre-existing condition is defined differently by each insurance company, and the look back period (a specific time period prior to having the insurance plan) can vary depending on the plan. Be sure to check your insurance plan, but generally the definition may include some form of the following:

“Any injury or illness which, within the 365 days prior to the effective date of coverage, manifested itself, exhibited symptoms, or required medical treatment or medication, or for which a physician was consulted.”

Many short term plans will not cover pre-existing conditions, and if they do, they might have a waiting period (period in which you must be on the plan before you’re able to have coverage for a specific condition) or look back period (like the example above). So although taking the risk of having your health insurance plan terminate after the first year might not seem like a big deal, it can be if you have a medical condition that you need continuing treatment for.

Pre-Existing Condition Example

To explain this, here is a common scenario: Let’s say you purchase a plan that has a six-month waiting period before pre-existing conditions are covered, and that the plan cannot be renewed beyond one year. You, however, decide to purchase the plan for one year, as you  can still purchase a new plan after one year if you need further coverage.

Here are two potential outcomes that could cause you to worry:

You Develop A Condition While on your Plan:

In the hustle and bustle of studying in a new country, the year quickly goes by and your insurance plan ends. This wouldn’t be a problem had you not used the plan, but last week you discovered you have asthma- and now you need to go to the doctor a multiple times over the next few months. Since your plan has ended you will need to buy a new insurance, and your asthma will now be considered a pre-existing condition and not covered within the first six months. This means that your doctor appointments, medication, and any labs  for your asthma will not be covered, and you will need to pay for them out of pocket. On the contrary, if you had purchased a plan that was renewable, you could have simply renewed your plan for an additional year and your asthma condition would continue to be covered.

Since accidents do happen, it’s important to ensure that the plan you purchase is able to be extended and renewed for the entire time you will be in the US so you don’t risk running into this situation.

You Need Coverage for a Condition you had Prior to the Plan Starting:

As mentioned previously, if you have a medical condition before your plan begins it will be considered a pre-existing condition. This means that your plan must include coverage for pre-existing conditions (and the condition you need treatment for) in order for that condition to be covered. For example, if you come to the US with epilepsy and purchase a plan with a six month waiting period for pre-existing conditions, it will be a six month wait before that condition will be covered. After that six month period you would then be able to have coverage for your pre-existing condition. However, if your plan does not allow you to renew, you would then need to buy a new plan and go through the waiting period again.

If you would like an international student health insurance plan that can be renewed for up to four years check out the Student Secure plan.

Additionally, keep in mind that if you’ve had an alternative plan in the past without a condition arising then buying a new plan is perfectly fine and you won’t have to worry about pre-existing condition coverage at all!

If you need coverage for a pre-existing condition right away you might want to consider looking into whether you’re eligible for an ACA-compliant plan. However, keep in mind that ACA compliant plans will not provide you with certain benefits that international students and scholars need like emergency medical evacuation and repatriation of remains.

New Provider Network in 2016

January 21st, 2016 by Ross Mason

First Health NetworkEffective 1st January 2016, the provider network for our main Student Health and Travel Medical insurance plans will be changing to the First Health Network. This is a welcomed move, as the First Health Network provides a much wider choice and greatly improves your access to participating providers.

Download New ID Card

You should have already received an email letting you know about this change, but just to remind you as part of the change, you will need to discard your current insurance ID card and log into the Student Zone to download your new ID card with the new network logo:

http://www.internationalstudentinsurance.com/student-zone/

Benefits of the First Health Network

Through the network, you will now have access to: ​

  • More than 5,000 hospitals
  • Over 90,000 ancillary facilities
  • Over 1 million health care professional service locations
  • Over 98% of the U.S. population has access to a provider in our network
  • Improved search functionality with a fully mobile-optimized search

The new link to search for providers is:
http://www.internationalstudentinsurance.com/network/
(The link in your student zone has also been automatically updated)

Thank you for your understanding and please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

Terrorism Coverage Explained

December 22nd, 2015 by Sutherland Beever

terrorismWith the recent attacks in Paris, the topic of terrorism has quickly transitioned from the back burner of national news to the front page of newspapers worldwide. While the rest of the world has turned its focus to the perpetrators and the healing process following this malicious act, our team at International Student Insurance wants to make sure you are safe and covered no matter where your travels take you. In today’s blog, we are going to discuss the terrorism benefit on many travel plans including what it covers and how travel warnings affect coverage.

Terrorism Coverage 101

Generally speaking, terrorism coverage is a benefit included in many international travel insurance plans, providing protection in the event of an unforeseen terrorist attack. The terrorism benefit is designed to pay for injuries and illnesses that result from acts of terrorism, including necessary hospitalizations, doctor visits, prescriptions, and other medical treatment required for ongoing care.

In order to file a claim under the terrorism benefit, several conditions must be met. To find these conditions, it’s important to turn to your Description of Coverage, or Certificate, to see how it’s defined on your insurance plan. As an example, points 1-4 below are taken from the Atlas Travel plan’s 2015 Description of Coverage.

In order to qualify for terrorism coverage on the Atlas Travel plan, the following conditions must be met:

  1. The Injury or Illness does not result from the use of any biological, chemical, radioactive or nuclear agent, material, device or weapon; and
  2. The Member has no direct or indirect involvement in the Act of Terrorism; and
  3. The Act of Terrorism is not in a country or location where the United States government has issued a travel warning that has been in effect within the 6 months immediately prior to the Member’s date of arrival; and
  4. The Member has not failed to depart a country or location within 10 days following the date a warning to leave that country or location is issued by the United States government.

The majority of these points may seem quite straightforward – you won’t be covered in the event of a nuclear war and you can’t be personally involved in the terrorist attack.  But what about points 3 and 4? If you are wondering if you’ll be eligible for the terrorism benefit, you will need to review the plan wording closely. Oftentimes the terrorism benefit is removed if a travel warning has been in place as early as 6 months before your date of departure.

To determine if this will affect you, you will need to know what travel warnings are and how you can find out if there is a travel warning in your destination country.

Travel Warnings 101

Travel warnings in the US are issued by the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs to warn travelers about the risks of traveling to certain areas where there is unrest or explicit danger to travelers. These travel warnings remain in place until the situation improves, and depending on the country, some of these warning have been in effect for many years. These travel advisories can be issued for a variety of reasons, including ongoing and intense crimes, violence, unstable governments, terrorist attacks, or civil war. Here’s how travel warnings can affect your benefits:

What if there is a travel warning before I arrive?
Your international insurance company monitors travel warnings, and in many cases, once a travel warning has been issued within the past 6 months of your plan’s effective date, the terrorism benefit will be considered null and void.

What if there is a travel warning and I’m already in my destination country?
In the unforeseen event that a travel warning is issued for your current location after you’ve arrived, your insurance plans will still provide terrorism coverage unless you unreasonably fail or refuse to follow the travel warning issued. If you choose to voluntarily stay in that given area, it’s likely that the terrorism benefit will be removed.

If you are unsure about your coverage, be sure to review your policy wording or contact your insurance carrier to verify how coverage may be affected.

Where Can I Find Travel Warnings?

It’s important to keep up to date with the travel warnings well before your flight leaves and throughout your trip to ensure that your safe. While local and national media channels are a great way to keep up with the local news, one of the best ways to keep up is to enroll in the STEP program through the Department of State. This free service allows US citizens and nationals to get important up to date information on safety concerns by local Consulates and Embassies.

In the event that an act of terrorism has occurred, your insurance company will typically reach out to you directly or post relevant information on the attack on their company website, or other online portal, such as a Student Zone.

Terrorism coverage can be seen as an additional and unnecessary benefit hidden near the bottom of a table of benefits – but just as Paris didn’t see an attack coming, terrorism is rarely predictable.  If you have any questions about how a terrorist attack could affect your travel insurance plan or if you are looking to purchase a plan with terrorism coverage, contact a licensed health insurance agent for help.

Our Insurance Plans

We offer a range of international health and travel insurance plans for both students and non-students including:

Student Secure

International Student Health Insurance for full time students around the world.

Atlas Travel

International Travel Medical Insurance for anyone outside of their home country.

Global Medical

International Major Medical Insurance for those needing long term coverage.

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