Health 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.