Considering Your Students
Before jumping into which type of insurance plan your students need, and how best to administer it, you will need to have a handle on important information related to your international student population.
For many larger schools, this may not be an easy task, as you may find you have a number of different foreign populations, including international students, exchange students, ESL students, students on OPT, visiting scholars (who may be here for just a few weeks or up to 5+ years), spouses, children or summer camp students, just to name a few. Within each population, it’s important to consider each of their needs.
Main considerations include:
- How many students fall into each sub-population?
- How long are these programs?
- What is the average age and age range of your student population?
- How financially sensitive are your students?
- What level of resources do you have to dedicate to insurance implementation?
- What type of benefits do your students, scholars and dependents need?
- Visa status
Next we will review a few of these factors in detail.
Only the J visa category carries any regulatory requirement for the student to maintain health insurance. Surprisingly, the F, Q and M visa categories do not require proof of health insurance coverage at all to obtain a student visa – instead, it is left to the school to determine what insurance requirements (if any) these international students will need to meet.
When implementing a health insurance policy for international students, visa type should be largely irrelevant. Not only do most visas not require health insurance at all, but the State Department insurance requirements for the J visas are so limited that they should be seen as a baseline only, as adequate plans will all easily exceed these requirements. Instead of visa status, the focus should be on demographic factors that impact the type and level of insurance that your student population needs, like their age, general health, duration of stay in the US and family situation.
Age and Health
Each school has its own particular demographic pool of students. Are there a lot of graduate students and scholars with their families? Is it mostly young undergraduates, or ESL students? Generally, the younger the demographic, the healthier they are overall and with fewer existing health issues, the less healthcare they require.
The duration that an international student will be in the United States is extremely relevant when deciding their best insurance options. In-bound scholars on a 3-month program likely won’t require any medical attention at all, but an international student in the US for a few years is likely to visit the doctor for at least the common flu or an accident.
An international student’s family situation is also a key factor to keep in mind when choosing coverage. Students with spouses or children are far more likely to take their family to a doctor and will require different benefits than a traditional student. Maternity for spouses and wellness care for children are both factors to take into consideration, neither of which are traditionally available on a short term plan, but could be included in a group insurance option or an international major medical policy.
Do you have a student health clinic available to all international students for ordinary issues and preventative care, for free or at reduced rates? Or, is all healthcare provided off-campus, meaning that the insurance plan’s treatment of ordinary office visit co-pays, deductibles and perhaps preventative care become more important.
This can be one of the most challenging, but most important, steps before deciding which insurance plan is most appropriate for your school. Often it’s helpful to discuss the needs of your international students with the departments on campus that could potentially impact them. The housing and athletics department, for example, could help ensure that you have evaluated the full needs of your students throughout their academic career.