It makes good sense to purchase international insurance coverage if you are traveling or studying in a different country. It may even be required for your visa or through your school. But how much international insurance coverage do you really need? Is the minimum insurance required good enough to cover an unforeseen injury or illness? Although it is hard to know exactly how much coverage you are going to need, you can get a better idea by knowing what your visa requires, how expensive medical care is in your destination country, what you’ll be doing abroad, and your budget.
Visa and School Requirements
The minimum insurance you must take differs depending on your destination country and visa. For example, the Schengen visa in Europe requires at least EUR €30 000 (equivalent to $50,000 USD) in overall benefits.
The US government requires you to meet minimum insurance standards if you are entering the US with a J visa. You are required to have at least a $100,000 overall insurance benefit. Unlike the J visa, students coming to study in the US on a F visa are not required by the government to meet any insurance requirements. Does this mean that you don’t need insurance if you have an F visa? No! Most schools in the US will require their international students to be enrolled in a private insurance plan or to enroll in a plan provided by the school. If you became ill or injured, lack of insurance could cause such a financial burden that you might have to withdraw from your school and return to your home country permanently.
Things to Consider
So, are the minimum required benefits for your visa or school enough for you? First, consider your destination country and the medical costs in that area. Medical costs, particularly in the US, are so high that an unforeseen illness or injury or a combination of these throughout the year could easily exceed your visa or school requirements, leaving you with a lot of bills to pay.
Medical costs in the United States are much higher than anywhere else in the world. The AXA released a study in 2013 of the costs for basic healthcare at the top 20 tourist destinations in the world. The report found that the average cost in the US is more than double that of the next most expensive country (Singapore).
For example, if you fell and broke a bone during your travels you could face bills of around $38,600 in the US, whereas the same injury would costed only $4,536 in Morocco or $23,200 in Singapore. If you are hospitalized for stomach problems such as gastroenteritis, treatment might cost around $3,200 in France, $4,700 in the Caribbean, $7,700 in Turkey, or a staggering $31,000 in the US.
These examples are not improbable situations – these things happen every day. To be caught without insurance in a situation like this could be detrimental to your finances. Consider the cost of medical care in the country that you are visiting and make sure to purchase insurance coverage that well exceeds the cost of one or more major injuries or illnesses. We recommend at least $100,000 in medical coverage outside of the US and at least $250,000 if you need US coverage.
Medical Evacuation and Repatriation
Medical evacuation and repatriation coverage is a very important benefit if you are spending time overseas. Emergency medical evacuation arranges transportation to the nearest adequate medical facility or back to your home country, if medically necessary. Repatriation, or return of mortal remains, transports your deceased remains back to your home. According to Travelex, the average cost of a medical evacuation within North America costs around $25,000. From Europe, the cost to be transported back to the US exceeds $50,000. If a medical escort is needed, you can expect to pay an additional $11,000 within North America or an additional $24,000 from Europe.
To cover these high costs, we typically recommend that travelers and students purchase medical evacuation and repatriation coverage of about $50,000 – $100,000. If you are traveling to remote locations, you should consider coverage closer to $250,000 or more.
Secondly, the duration of your trip influences how much coverage you need. If you are visiting for just a few days or weeks, the minimum required by your visa may be enough coverage for you. However, if you’re coming for one year or more, your risk for multiple injuries and illnesses increases and you should consider a higher coverage limit. Students studying in the US for the duration of a degree programs (typically 4 years) or more should try to find a plan that is annually renewable and that has enough coverage for this long-term stay. We recommend at least an $250,000 annual coverage limit.
Lifestyle and Activities
Lastly, no matter which visa you are on or what your destination country is, your lifestyle and activities should also be considered when deciding how much insurance coverage to purchase. For example, if you are participating in organized sports, extreme sports, or high risk activities, make sure your insurance plan covers them! We recommend you look for a plan with a benefit of at least $3,000 per injury specifically for organized sports. Be sure to check with your insurance agent if you are participating in other high-risk activities.
Increasing Coverage is Inexpensive
Most travel insurance plans will allow you to increase your overall maximum limit. Raising your overall maximum limit can protect you from having to pay out of your own pocket if something serious happens and the cost of upgrading your plan is relatively low. The International Travel Medical plan, for example, lets you choose your maximum coverage starting at $50,000 all the way up to $1 million dollars. Upgrading your plan from the $100,000 option to the $1 million option only costs an extra few cents per day.
There are also many insurance plans out there specifically for students that offer excellent benefits at an affordable prices. The International Student Insurance plan, for examples, gives you four levels of coverage to choose from. The overall maximum limits range from $200,000 up to $500,000 and offering increasingly comprehensive benefits. They range in cost, providing affordable options for all types of coverage.