The 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.
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!).
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.