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2015-2016 University of South Florida Insurance Requirements

June 12th, 2015 by Jennifer Frankel

The University of South Florida recently updated their insurance requirements for international students. With the exception of exchange students, all international students will be required to have one year of health insurance coverage starting on August 17, 2015. To avoid any holds to register for classes, we recommend that you purchase health insurance now, so that you can get everything done ahead of time before the new school year begins. Here’s how to comply with the 2015-2016 University of South Florida insurance requirements:

1. School Requirements

The University of South Florida has mandated that students carry health insurance that meets specific benefit requirements to ensure their students are properly covered. Either the Student Secure Select or Elite level will meet your school’s insurance requirements, and you can save up to $2,712.28 a year! When you purchase the plan, be sure to start your coverage on August 17th and purchase for one year to satisfy their requirements.

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2. Compliance Form

Your school requires that both you and your insurance company complete a compliance form provided by the Student Health Services confirming that your plan will meet the mandate. This means that even if you have purchased or renewed a plan, you will still need to have the compliance form completed and sent to USF for processing. To do this, you will need to download your compliance form and fill out the left side of your form.

>> Download your 2015-2016 compliance form

3. Email your completed compliance form to us, and we’ll send it to your school

Once you have completed your school’s compliance form, then send it to us and we’ll have this filled out and submitted to your school within one business days. You can submit this to us directly at info@internationalstudentinsurance.com or feel free to fax it to us at (904) 212-0412. When we receive your form, we will confirm receipt by email, and let you know that we are processing it, and then send you final notification once your form has been sent to USF. Once received and processed by your school, they will remove the hold and you’ll be all set to enroll in classes.

For any questions or concerns, please contact our Customer Service Representatives who are standing by to help you with any insurance questions you may have. Best of luck on the new school year!

Dependent Health Insurance for J2 and F2

May 13th, 2015 by Jennifer Frankel

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 Cause

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.

The Effect

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

The Solution

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.

 >>Learn more and apply

  • 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.

>>Learn more and apply

  • 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.

>>Learn more and apply

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.

Student Health Plan Updates for 2015

May 7th, 2015 by Ross Mason

Student Health InsuranceWe are excited to announce our student health insurance plan updates for the upcoming 2015 plan year. The new updates came into effect on May 1st, and include a range of excellent enhancements and additions – making our student health plan still the best, most comprehensive and affordable option for international students around the world.

The biggest changes to the plans this year are:

Elite Plan Level

Joining the Smart, Budget and Select plan levels is the new Elite plan. This new, higher level of coverage provides the following benefits, not found on the other plans:

  • $500,000 policy maximum;
  • $500,000 emergency medical evacuation;
  • 100% coinsurance within the PPO network and outside the U.S.;
  • 80% prescription drug coverage;
  • $75/day for physical therapy;
  • $250,000 personal liability.

Lower Pricing

For the majority of our customers, we have also lowered our rates so that the student health plan is now even more affordable. For an international student between 18 and 24, studying in the USA, coverage now starts at just $29 per month.

Smart Benefits Updated

Due to the new J1 Visa Insurance requirement changes that take place on the 15th May 2015, we have updated the smart benefit accordingly to make sure all levels of coverage are compliant for any J visa holder.

For the complete student health plan updates for 2015, including benefits, exclusions and premiums, please see our student health page for more information. If you would also like a personalized quote, or would like to work out what plan level if right for you – please do not hesitate to contact our team for more information.

Sports Insurance for International Students

April 17th, 2015 by Victoria Troupe

Students participating in sports are constantly pushing their bodies to the limit and are taking on a greater risk of injury than students who are not. Sports insurance for international students becomes even more critical than ever in these cases, and finding the right insurance plan for your situation is particularly important. Not every insurance policy will cover sports, and in many cases they will include or exclude coverage based on sports categories such as organized sports, extreme/adventure sports, contact sports, or recreational sports.

In this post, we will explore those main sport categories, and how international student insurance plans deal with coverage.

Organized Sports

Organized sports, as defined in insurance terms, usually include intercollegiate, interscholastic, intramural or club sport participation. If your sport requires organized practices or events, if you have a coach, or if you signed up for the sports through your school, it is most likely an organized sport. This definition does not include semi-professional and professional sports, which are usually in their own category, and in general are not covered by most international student or travel medical plans.

Coverage for organized sports is not inherent in most international student plans, and is commonly excluded from coverage. But not to worry! There are a few international student plans that do include coverage for organized sports, usually with a maximum limit per injury. The Student Secure Budget and Select levels both include coverage for up to $3,000 per injury (Budget) or $5,000 per injury (Select) for organized sports and the Student Health Advantage Standard and Platinum plans includes organized sports coverage up to $5,000 per injury.

Extreme/Adventure Sports

Extreme sports, also known as adventure sports, are activities perceived as having a high level of inherent danger. These activities often involve speed, height, a high level of physical exertion, and, in most cases, highly specialized gear. These kinds of activities are often undertaken for thrill seeking, and thus can expose the participant to abnormal risk that exceeds even that of organized sports.

Although most travel medical plans exclude coverage for organized sports, some policies will include limited coverage for extreme/adventure sports, or there may be an additional  rider that can be added to the plan for an additional cost. These plans will often list the exact sports that are covered and/or those that are excluded from coverage.

For example, the Atlas Travel plan includes coverage for all extreme sports that are not excluded specifically in the policy. Excluded sports include aviation, base jumping, parachuting, parasailing, hang-gliding, sky surfing, paragliding, kite-surfing, off-road motorized vehicles, heli-skiing, white water rafting, racing, spelunking, cave diving, diving unless certified, avalanche training, rugby, hunting, running with the bulls, bobsleigh, skeleton, luge, boxing or martial arts, piloting a hot air ballooning, jousting, pentathlon, powerlifting, quad biking, speed trials, speedway, or wrestling. Any extreme sports not listed would therefore be covered the same as any other illness.

The Patriot Travel plan is an example of a plan that offers an Adventure Sports rider. Here’s a summary of the terms of the rider from IMG, the insurance administrator of the Patriot Travel plan.

“The following activities are covered to the lifetime maximum amounts listed below as long as they are engaged solely for leisure, recreation, or entertainment purposes: abseiling, BMX, bobsledding, bungee jumping, canyoning, caving, hang gliding, heli-skiing, high diving, hot air ballooning, inline skating, jet skiing, jungle zip lining, kayaking, mountain biking, parachuting, paragliding, parascending, piloting a non-commercial aircraft, rappelling, rock climbing or mountaineering (ropes and guides to 4500m from ground level), scuba diving (to 50m), sky diving, snorkeling, snowboarding, snowmobiling, snow skiing, spelunking, surfing, trekking, whitewater rafting (to Class V), and wildlife safaris, and windsurfing.  All such activities must be carried out in strict accordance with the rules, regulations and guidelines of the applicable Governing Body or Authority of each such activity.”

There are certain sports,however, that are never covered by the Patriot Travel plan, regardless of whether or not the Adventure Sports rider is purchased. These include contact sports of any kind, racing of any kind, any rodeo activity, BASE jumping, kiteboarding, mountaineering or climbing or trekking above elevation 4500 meters above ground level or without proper ropes or guides; luge, motocross, Moto-X, ski jumping, sub-aquatic activities below 50 meters, whitewater rafting exceeding Class V difficulty, and/or adventure sports activity not expressly covered.

Contact Sports

A contact sport is defined as a sport in which players come into physical contact with each other as part of normal play. Hockey, soccer, football, and martial arts are just a few examples of contact sports. Similar to extreme sports, contact sports increase your risk of injury and like the Patriot Travel example above, many plans specifically exclude contact sports, even if they cover other sports. However, if you’ll be participating in contact sports, make sure your insurance plan includes this. The Student Secure Budget and Select cover all organized sports, even if they are considered contact sports.

Recreational, Leisure, or Fitness Sports

Some sports don’t fit into any of these categories. If you like to jog to keep fit, play tennis for fun on the weekends, or play catch with your friends, these types of sports activities fall into another category called Recreational, Leisure, or Fitness sports. These are activities people engage in during their free time, and are  undertaken purely for recreation, leisure, or fitness purposes. They are therefore not considered organized, extreme, or contact, and are usually covered under the general medical benefits of an international student insurance plan or even a travel medical plan.

Not All Insurance Is Equal

Carefully consider your sports participation when shopping for an insurance plan. Using the guidance above, determine which categories of sport you’ll be participating in and find an insurance policy that will protect you in case of any resulting injuries. Every insurance plan will specifically define which types of sports are included or excluded from that particular plan. Check the master policy to be sure that the sports you partake in are covered.

For help, feel free to email, chat or call our licensed insurance agents at any time.

Travel Medical Plan Updates for 2015

April 2nd, 2015 by Ross Mason

We are proud to announce some excellent updates to our international travel medical insurance plan. Effective April 1st 2015, anyone purchasing a new plan will benefit from these excellent new additions and enhancements:

  • Emergency Medical Evacuation benefit increased from $500,000 to $1,000,000.
  • Acute onset of pre-existing conditions benefit increased to match medical coverage maximum for $200,000, $500,000 and $1,000,000 maximums.
  • New Trip Delay benefit added ($100 per day for up to 2 days when 12-hour delay results in unplanned overnight stay).
  • New Pet Return benefit added (up to $1,000 to return pet home if member hospitalized).
  • Lost Checked Luggage benefit increased from $250 to $500.
  • New Bedside Visit benefit added (up to $1,500 for economy ticket to enable family member to visit if member admitted to ICU).
  • Eligibility definition expanded for Trip Interruption benefit (includes death of grandchild).

The travel medical insurance is an ideal insurance solution for those looking for short to medium term coverage, outside of their home country. It is available for up to 364 days for those needing coverage within the USA and for up to 3 years for those needing coverage around the world, excluding the USA.

For more information about our travel medical plan, please see our website:


New Student Zone Features

March 10th, 2015 by Ross Mason

We are always continuing to strive to bring the very best international student insurance plans, with benefits and pricing to match the needs of international students from all around the world. While the plans and benefits are extremely important – we also want to make it easy for our clients to manage their plans once they have purchased.

The Student Zone has been an excellent resource for all our current clients, as it allows them to manage their plan online – and offers the ability to renew coverage online, download replacement documents, search for providers, initiate pre-certification, amongst of wealth of other things. To continue this improvement, we have two new Student Zone features that have just been added and made available:

  • Online Claims Tracking through MESA
  • Online Claim Form Submission

MESA – Online Claims Tracking

Traditionally when a claim is processed, you will receive an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) in the mail that outlines how your claim was processed. This process can typically take up to 7 days for the EOB to arrive, as you need to wait for the document to be printed and then physically mailed to you.

However, with the launch of MESA you can now receive and obtain all your EOB’s online through your own, secure account. The process to get setup is quick, and the short introduction below will help guide you through the steps:

Once you are ready, head over to our special MESA page which will give you further information and access to the system:


Online Claim Form

Another great addition that we have also recently added to the Student Zone is the ability to submit a claim form online. We recommend that for each new injury or illness, you always submit a claim form to the claims team to speed along the processing. It may not be needed in every case, but it helps to have the form on file if the claims examiner needs it for any reason.

In the past, you would have needed to print a claim form off, complete it, and then either scan and email, or mail the document. With the addition of the online claim form, you can simply log into your account and submit the form right online. It takes no more than 5 to 10 minutes – and your done!

To access this, please log into your Student Zone account and then click on “Claim Information” and then “Claim Forms” – from there you will see the following screen:

Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 12.31.29 PM

You will be able to start the online claim form process, and that will be submitted directly to the claims team for processing!

Student Zone

All these features and more are available in your student zone, to access that please visit:


If you have any questions, or need assistance setting up any of our accounts – please contact our customer support team who will be happy to help you.

What International Students Need to Know About Prescriptions

February 11th, 2015 by Bryanna Davis

medication 122524542Medical costs in the United States are very expensive and prescriptions are no exception. To keep your medical costs low and your body healthy, get information on what international students need to know about prescriptions.

Understand Your Health Insurance When in the US
There is a wide variety of health insurance plans for international students to choose from and each plan will fall into one of the following two categories. Know which category your plan fits into so when the need strikes you know how to obtain your prescription.

  1. Individual Insurance Plan
    If your school does not require you to purchase a specific plan you can find and purchase the health insurance plan of your choice. In most cases, individual insurance plans include prescription coverage even if they do not have separate prescription medication program. If you need a prescription while on an individual plan you will pay for your prescription up front and file a claim for reimbursement. If you’re not sure how to file a claim contact your agent or insurance company for assistance.
  2. School Group Insurance Plan
    Your school might have a group health insurance plan that they allow or require you to enroll in. If you need a prescription while on your school’s group insurance plan you will more than likely be able to obtain it in the same way that those on an individual plan can.

If you receive a prescription card after buying your health insurance coverage make sure you show the pharmacist your card when picking up your prescription. To confirm the prescription coverage on your school’s group plan please request these directly from your school.

If your school has a group plan they will either:

i. Allow you to voluntarily enroll.
ii. Require you to enroll.
iii. Allow you to waive the school plan when comparable coverage is available.

Whether you have a school group plan or an individual plan it’s important to find out how much prescription coverage your plan includes. Review your insurance plan documents to confirm your out of pocket expenses including copays, deductibles and coinsurance. Ensure that you also take note on the difference in cost when you visit a provider that is in-network, as opposed to a provider that is out of network. If you are currently taking medication you’ll also need to find out if it will be covered – don’t forget to research plan exclusions and waiting periods, as pre-existing medical conditions may not be covered.

Research Discount and Free Prescription Programs
Depending on the medication you need and which pharmacy you visit you might be able to get your prescription at a discount or even free of charge. Below is a list of pharmacies in various locations around the US that offer discount pharmacy programs.

Bring Your Medication
If you take medication regularly, we suggest that you bring a good supply with you. If you plan on buying it in the US you not only run the risk of having to pay for this medication at full cost, but you also run the risk of the United States not having the same medications that were available to you in your home country.

Remember, many international student health insurance plans exclude coverage for conditions you’ve had prior to the start date of your plan (known as a pre-existing condition), or you may need to wait a certain period of time before you get covered for your prescriptions.

If you have questions on prescription medication for international students you can contact us for further guidance.

Top 5 Claim Challenges…and How To Deal With Them!

January 15th, 2015 by Jennifer Frankel

Cartoon Businessman with Failure concept487390935No matter where your studies or travels take you, a good insurance plan can only be evaluated by the way they process and pay claims. For the overwhelming majority of people, the sophisticated claims payment and management systems set up by international insurers work very smoothly.

However, what if it isn’t as smooth as you had hoped? What if you went to the hospital, and now you are receiving threatening collection letters? Or, what if the claim process did go smoothly, but your claims were denied – and you wholeheartedly disagree? It’s important to realize that there are steps you can take to make sure that these issues get resolved, quickly and correctly.

Here are the top 5 claims complaints by international students, and how you can resolve them:

  • You’ve submitted your claim but you haven’t heard back

There are many reasons why you may not have heard back – the most common one is that the claim was never submitted!  The first step would be to contact your doctor or clinic and make sure they have filed the claim and that they have the correct insurance information on file. If you did not bring your ID card with you at the time of treatment, they might not know where to file the claim. In cases like these, we recommend that you give them your policy number, insurance address (which will appear on your ID card), and you can also fax the provider a copy of your ID card.  Sometimes, you may need the file the claim yourself.

Next, call the number on your ID card to get in touch with the insurance company and confirm receipt of the claim. Ask if they are missing anything, and make sure that they have your correct contact information. Many times insurance companies will need a Claimant Statement (also known as a Claims Form or Proof of Loss Form) before they process any claims, so be sure to send this in so that there is no delay.

Are you not a big fan of the phone, and prefer to do the whole thing online? Many insurance companies now have online claims management systems where you can track the status of your claim at any time throughout the day. These tracking tools can often tell you what the status is of your claim, what is missing, and oftentimes can let you know what was paid. These tools have been designed to make the process easier and more efficient, so we strongly recommend using these tools if it’s available through your carrier.

TIP: To speed up the process, we recommend submitting all claims electronically. This makes sure that they get the documents right away, that you have a copy of the claim, and that there is a time stamp on when the claim was submitted.

  • Your claim has been processing for more than 30 days

Typically claims take about 30 business days to be processed, but often much sooner than that. If you still haven’t heard back after 30 days, call your insurance company and verify the status of your claim. There can be many reasons why your claim is taking so long to process, for example they could be waiting for a completed Claim Form or medical records from your doctor/hospital. There are many reasons why a claim could be taking longer than normal, so be sure to check the online claims tracking system or give the insurance company a call to see what the hold up is.

  • I don’t understand any of the claims information

Once your claim has been processed, you will receive an Explanation of Benefits (also known as an EOB) in the mail detailing what was covered and what wasn’t covered. While this may be confusing at first, take a moment to look it over. You’ll see on this form the Patient Responsibility – usually in bold – and this is how much you will need to pay directly to your doctor or hospital. There may be many reasons why you need to pay your provider, two of the most common reasons is that there is an out of pocket on your plan (such as a deductible, copay or coinsurance) or the condition was excluded. Reasons why something wasn’t covered typically appears as a number, which will then be a clarification of why it was not covered.

  • You are getting payment overdue notices or collection letters

If you have left a claim unpaid, or have not followed up to make sure the claim has been closed and paid, then you might get an overdue payment notice. Don’t ignore it as it will not go away, but instead the best course of action is to be proactive!

First,  call your provider (i.e., doctor, hospital, clinic) and let them know that the insurance company is processing the claim. Make sure that they’ve submitted the documents to the insurance company, and confirm that they have the correct information on file for you (the spelling of your name, policy number, and date of birth). Next, confirm that they have the correct insurance company information, including the insurance company’s address and phone number.

If all of that checks out, then you will want to review your claim through the online claims tracking system or contact your insurance company to confirm if they have the claim on file, when the claim was received, and if there is any other information missing to finalize payment. Finally, see if you can get a timeline on when they expect to pay the provider. You will also find out if you have any outstanding payments due (such as your deductible, copay, coinsurance, or excluded benefits).

After, this may require you to call your provider back and let them know if any information is missing. You may want to also let them know the time frame in which the insurance company expects payment to go out. If you have any out of pocket due you will want to make the payment at this time.

  • Your claim has been denied, but you disagree!

If you are not happy with a claims decision, and feel it has been denied in error – the good news is that all insurance plans allow you to appeal your claims. For most carriers, this only requires an email to the claims team requesting a re-review, or in some cases your insurance company may require you to complete a special form. Along with your appeal, you should provide as much information to support your appeal as possible, this could include things like doctors records, notes, and really anything that shows you do not agree with the original denial. The appeal will typically take around 30 days to process, and then you will receive a letter from your insurance company explaining the result of the appeal.

TIP: Appeals are only allowed within a certain time frame from the initial denial, so don’t wait and do this right away.

We hope this has provided you with some insight into your claims worries, if you would like to know more about how to properly file a claim to minimize any issues, check out our article for a step-by-step guide on submitting an insurance claim.

Does My International Insurance Plan Cover Ebola?

December 22nd, 2014 by Victoria Troupe

Globe of Africa and International Currencies in BackgroundAA049180Traveling always comes with inherent dangers. We usually prepare for these dangers by receiving the proper immunizations and vaccinations, taking extra precautions to stay safe, and purchasing travel insurance for unforeseen injuries or illnesses. However, when a serious medical outbreak or epidemic occurs, like the recent Ebola outbreak, travelers like us need to be aware of our actual risk and how the outbreak will affect our insurance coverage. You may be wondering, “Will my travel insurance plan cover Ebola?”

Your medical coverage will vary by insurance company, plan, and plan level. Few plans will actually exclude Ebola specifically from coverage. More likely is the possibility of some of your insurance benefits becoming limited or unavailable because of travel advisories being issued for areas to which you are traveling. Even if some of your benefits are limited due to the Ebola travel advisory, you are still covered by your insurance plan for other unrelated injuries and illnesses.

Ebola-related advisories currently only exist for specific countries in Western Africa.There is a Level 3 Travel Warning issued for the countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea, because of “unprecedented outbreaks of Ebola in those countries.” The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) recommend to avoid all unnecessary travel to these countries. A Level 2 Travel Alert has been issued in Mali, recommending travelers to practice enhanced precautions due to the possibility of the virus spreading further into the country.

Which Benefits Matter?

Several of your travel insurance benefits could be affected by these types of travel advisories, including Ebola-related medical benefits, emergency medical evacuation, and trip cancellation. If you are traveling within the CDC and FCO recommendations, you would most likely have cover (if you contracted Ebola in the US or UK, for example). However, if you contract the disease in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, or Mali, your coverage may be void because of the travel advisories. Keep in mind, you would still be covered for other injuries or illnesses unrelated to the travel advisory. If you caught the flu in Liberia, for example, you would be covered as usual.

Most travel insurance plans allow a certain amount of time (about 5-10 days) to evacuate if you are in-country at the time a travel advisory is issued. If your plan becomes effective after the advisory is in place, however, coverage for the forewarned illness is likely invalid.

The same is true if you cancel your trip because of Ebola. If you purchase your ‘Cancel for Any Reason’ trip cancellation insurance before the advisory is issued, you can likely recover some portion of your non-refundable trip expenses to cancel. If you purchase your plan after the advisory is in effect, however, it would not be a viable claim.

How are Insurance Companies Handling Ebola?

Insurance companies are approaching Ebola in different ways. Some are trying to decide whether to include it as part of their coverage, while others are limiting coverage options to countries impacted by the disease.  In the meantime, many insurance companies are releasing statements to clarify their insurance coverage for this particular disease.  Here are some examples of common travel insurance plans and how they are handling Ebola in different situations as of December, 2014.


| HCC Medical Insurance Services (HCCMIS)

HCCMIS the plan administrator of our Atlas Travel plan, issued this statement to explain how their long-standing travel medical plan covers illnesses related to travel advisories, like the ongoing Ebola epidemic:

“The Atlas Travel policy offered by HCCMIS provides travel medical insurance and emergency travel assistance to members traveling outside of their home country and covers illnesses contracted while abroad, including but not limited to, the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) or Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever (EHF).

While Atlas Travel coverage includes these illnesses, it is highly recommended that you check for any travel or health advisories that might be active for the region or countries that you may be visiting and take necessary precautions. In countries for which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued a Warning Level 3 (avoid nonessential travel), the medical condition that prompted the CDC warning is excluded. All other eligible medical expenses are covered as usual. For members in-country at the time of the CDC warning, 10 days are allowed for departure before the condition becomes excluded.”

| Travelex

Travelex Insurance Services released the following statement regarding Ebola:

“…in order to be eligible for coverage due to EVD, the protection plan should have been purchased prior the event being foreseen (July 25th, 2014). In the event EVD causes an unforeseeable loss to occur after the effective date of the plan you have purchase coverage may be considered in the following areas: Trip Cancellation, Trip Interruption Coverage, Trip Delay Coverage, Emergency Medical Coverage, 24 Hour Travel Assistance Services, and Policy Transfer Options.”

| Seven Corners

Seven Corners, a reputable insurance provider and administrator of the Roundtrip series of emergency medical and trip cancellation insurance plans, also released a statement in light of the Ebola epidemic:

“Emergency medical care and medically necessary evacuation coverage is available if the illness occurs during your travels. As it relates to Trip Cancellation, unless a traveler meets the specified criteria listed under the Trip Cancellation section of their Description of Coverage or policy, Trip Cancellation benefits are not available.Customers who purchase RoundTrip Economy and RoundTrip Elite plans are strongly encouraged to review coverage, terms, conditions and exclusions.”


Check your policy!

Every policy is unique, with different terms and conditions. Be sure to check your policy or contact your insurance company to see if you’re covered for Ebola. For more information regarding travel advisories and their affects on your health insurance plan, check out this article.

For more information about travel medical insurance plans or trip cancellation insurance plans, visit our Insurance Explained page.

J1 Visa Insurance Requirements Change in 2015

December 5th, 2014 by Ross Mason
J1 Travel to the USA

J1 Travel to the USA

The J1 Visa is probably one of the most well known visa types for students to come to the USA to work and study. Introduced in 1961, it has grown in popularity to become one of the primary ways students can participant in Work and Travel programs, Au Pair programs, Internships and all the other J1 Visa Categories. For more detailed information about the J1 visa, please visit our very comprehensive section explaining all the main details about this visa type.

Of course there are many different requirements that need to be met in order to qualify for the J1 Visa, but one of the requirements of the visa is that the participant holds an insurance policy that will cover their medical expenses during their time in the USA. Set in 1993, the requirements were as follows:

  • Medical Benefits of at least $50,000 per accident or illness
  • Repatriation of Remains in the amount of $7,500
  • Expenses associated with the medical evacuation of the exchange visitor to his or her home country in the amount of $10,000
  • A deductible not to exceed $500 per accident or illness
  • A policy underwritten by an insurance carrier with:
    • an AM Best rating of “A-” or above
    • an Insurance Solvency International, Ltd (ISI) rating of “A-I” or above
    • a Standard and Poor’s Claims Paying Ability rating of “A-” or above
    • or a Weiss Research, Inc. rating of “B+” or above

While to many around the world, the levels of coverage may seem adequate for a temporary visitor, the USA medical system is the most expensive in the world. $50,000 does not actually go very far if you are hospitalized, and so there have been calls to increase these limits to protect students.

On the 6th October 2014, the US Department of State issued a final rule that would make a number of changes to the way the J1 Visa program is run, and as part of that the levels of insurance coverage were changed to:

  • Medical benefits of at least $100,000 per accident or illness
  • Repatriation of remains in the amount of $25,000
  • Expenses associated with the medical evacuation of exchange visitors to his or her home country in the amount of $50,000
  • Deductibles not to exceed $500 per accident or illness.
  • A policy underwritten by an insurance carrier with:
    • an A.M. Best rating of ‘‘A-’’ or above;
    • a McGraw Hill Financial/Standard & Poor’s Claims paying Ability rating of ‘‘A-’’ or above;
    • a Weiss Research, Inc. rating of ‘‘B+’’ or above;
    • a Fitch Ratings, Inc. rating of ‘‘A-’’ or above;
    • a Moody’s Investor Services rating of ‘‘A3’’ or above;

The main changes are to the levels of coverage, up to $100,000 for medical benefits, up to $25,000 for repatriation of remains, up to $50,000 for medical evacuation, and the inclusion of more rating agencies. The main changes have all be highlighted in red.

Update: These new levels of coverage will come into effect on May 15th 2015, so any participants who are in the USA on a J1 Visa on this date will need to meet these new requirements. For more detailed information about the J1 Visa, please be sure to visit our visa section covering all the main aspects of the visa:


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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