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Insurance Options for Dual Citizens of the United States

March 23rd, 2018 by Yessica Prato

Dual Citizenship

Many students worldwide have considered studying in the United States as it houses some of the worlds most prestigious universities and colleges. When traveling to the US, it’s important to have health insurance as healthcare can be very expensive. If you are one of the many people that enjoys having dual citizenship (US citizenship and citizenship from another country) for the purpose of insurance, the United States citizenship will take precedence within the country. While you can enjoy the benefits of paying citizen tuition rates and not go through the process of obtaining a student visa, you are required to fulfill the responsibilities of a US citizen. So even if you’ve never been to the US, having US citizenship will automatically change the way you qualify and obtain a health insurance.


A little history…

In 2010, former President Barack Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This healthcare reform law, known as ACA or Obamacare, is a very complex set of regulations. It requires all US citizens to maintain health insurance that meets the ACA standards or pay a fee when they file taxes if they fail to maintain coverage.

Most international students are exempt from the ACA mandate for the first 5 calendar years that they are in the United States. However, a student with dual citizenship in the US will not be considered an international student. This means that as a US citizen, you will be held to the same standards as any other citizen in the country.


Finding an ACA compliant plan

ACA compliant plans are designed to give you coverage for a wide range of conditions. Generally, they will cover pre-existing conditions, maternity, and wellness or routine care to name a few. However, with the extensive coverage it offers, the cost of these plans can be steep.

Once you’ve been accepted to the school of your choice, one of the first things you should inquire about is whether or not they offer or mandate a school insurance plan. Some schools offer health insurance for their students and their plans are generally ACA compliant. For schools that don’t offer health insurance to their students, here are some options that you can consider:


The Marketplace

The best way to start your search for an ACA plan is using the government managed website Best known as “the Marketplace,” the federal government created this online portal to list insurance providers and the plans that meet the requirements of the healthcare reform. The marketplace plans are separated into four categories: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Each category based on the percentage the plan pays toward your medical expenses.


Dual CitizenshipNote: The Marketplace has a yearly enrollment period when people can sign up for health insurance. Usually, it takes place in the fall. If you miss the enrollment period, you will need to use the Special Enrollment Period and have a “qualifying event” (Moving from a foreign country to the US counts as a qualifying event!)


Local state agencies

As a US citizen, you will have access to government programs and assistance. If you prefer to speak to an insurance agent, the Marketplace offers a list of agents and brokers. They will be able to assist you with choosing a plan that is right for you. Additionally, you can reach out to an insurance company directly and they will also be able to help you get an ACA compliant plan.


Short Term Insurance plans

Also known as “gap insurance,” short term plans are designed to give you coverage until you can find appropriate coverage. They will generally cover inpatient and outpatient services and be more affordable than ACA compliant plans. However, these plans are only designed to give you temporary coverage. Most states in the US only allow short term plans to cover US citizens. Generally, the short term plans are only available for 3 months at a time. Some states only allow you to repurchase the plan twice in a calendar year.


Dual Citizenship

Note: Short term insurance plans are not ACA compliant. You will be subject to a tax penalty even if you are insured the entire year with multiple short term plans.


Employment-based insurance

One of the great advantages of already being a US citizen is that you are legally able to work in the US without going through the trouble of applying for a work permit. Many employers in the US offer health insurance for their full-time or equivalent employees. If you are able to secure a full-time job and go to school, make sure you ask about your health insurance benefits. Employers are not required to offer health insurance, however, the penalties for this are very costly. Many of them offer ACA compliant plans and share the cost of insurance with their employees.

Patriot Travel Plan – Standard Level

With the recent 2018 updates to all of our insurance plans, our Patriot Travel plan – Standard level only will now offer coverage for US citizens inside the United States as long as they have lived outside of the United States for the last 6 consecutive months and they purchase the plan before the travel to the US. However, this plan is not an ACA compliant plan and thus, you will have to pay for the tax penalty on your taxes.  


Dual Citizenship

Changing times

While living in the US as a US citizen, you are required to file a tax return with the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) every year. Even though it’s never a good idea to be uninsured in the US, you can choose to pay the ACA tax penalty. This fine is 2.5% of your yearly household income or $695 USD per person – whichever one is higher.

However, as the new US administration frantically tries to come up with a better solution for healthcare, much talk of a repeal of the ACA mandate is in the works. As of now, for the tax years 2016, 2017, and 2018, anyone without proper health insurance coverage will be subject to the tax penalty. Beginning with 2019 tax returns filed in 2020, the latest tax reform has eliminated the ACA tax penalty.

Despite the cloudy future of the Affordable Care Act and the mixed signals from the current administration for a better alternative, it’s imperative to be prepared and insured when you come to study in the United States. A car accident or a severe illness could bury you in thousands of dollars in debt.


There are many advantages for having dual citizenship. You will be able to travel between both countries easily, have access to two social service systems, vote and work in both countries. However, there are drawbacks as you will also have dual obligations and possibly double taxation. When it comes to choosing a health insurance plan, you will need to follow certain guidelines required to all US citizens.

Drug and Alcohol Awareness for International Students

February 14th, 2018 by Leah Hammond

Travel Medical Insurance plan update

For many students, going away to college will be the first time you are away from the familiarity of being with your family and friends. While this can be a very exciting time, moving your entire life to a new city, state, or even a new country can be a nerve-wracking experience. To cope with this new-found freedom, some students may turn to experimenting with drug use or binge drinking. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, those who are enrolled in a full-time college program are twice as likely to abuse drugs and alcohol than those who don’t attend college. 

For international students, there are many additional factors that may lead to drug and alcohol abuse. Due to cultural differences, you may not fully understand the extenuating circumstances that can lead to substance abuse and the consequences that could result. It is important to educate yourself on drug and alcohol awareness and what programs and resources are available to you while attending college in the United States.

Why do International Students Experiment with Drugs and Alcohol?

As an international student, this is most likely your first time away from home. You may feel nervous about being on your own in a new place, overwhelmed with new challenges and responsibilities, and a strong need to fit in with your community. These are all feelings that could cause you to turn towards experimenting with drugs and alcohol for the first time.

  • Lifestyle Changes. For many international students, being away from home for the first time can be intimidating. Cultural differences, language barriers, and the distance between family and friends can be daunting. Dealing with culture shock, home sickness, and anxiety can lead to the use of alcohol and drugs.
  • Stress. Managing the high-demands of coursework, extracurricular activities, finances and social obligations can be hard to juggle for any student. As an international student, you must also keep in mind your immigration status, which may cause additional stress. To maintain an active visa status, international students much attend and pass all classes and be enrolled in a full course load. Attending and passing all classes and being enrolled in a full course load is important to maintain an active visa status. This factor may lead to the abuse of stimulant-based drugs to help stay awake and study, or alcohol abuse to mask the feeling of stress.
  • Peer pressure. Fitting in is a common influence that can lead students to experiment with drugs and alcohol in college. Typically, international students come to the United States not knowing anyone, so it is very likely that you may experiment with things you may not normally feel comfortable with in order to make friends and feel accepted.

What are the Consequences of Experimenting with Drugs and Alcohol?

Alcohol and drug use can impair one’s judgment leading to poor decision making and unsafe circumstances. Legal trouble, sexual assault, and accidental injuries are some of the common issues seen on college campuses that result from excessive drinking and drug use. 

  • In many countries around the world, the minimum drinking age is 18 or younger, so alcohol consumption may be a more normal part of your culture. In the United States, however, it is important to keep in mind that the minimum drinking age is 21. This means that consuming alcohol before turning 21 is illegal and could result in legal action. Drunk driving is also a serious criminal offense that could be a consequence of misusing alcohol and can result in high fines, jail time, and having your drivers license suspended. For international students, legal trouble could affect your visa status and could even result in your visa being revoked
  • Being under the influence impairs your ability to give consent to sexual activity. Over half of the reported sexual assaults on college campuses involved alcohol or drug use. It is important to know your limits, watch your drink, and stay with your friends to protect yourself from a potentially dangerous situation.  
  • Each year, nearly 500,000 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 have been unintentionally injured due to alcohol and drugs use. Of these injuries, about 1,400 have resulted in death. Alcohol poisoning, falling from balconies or open windows, and motor vehicle crashes are among the most common ways that students are injured while under the influence.

Drug and Alcohol Awareness

Many colleges and universities in the United States have implemented programs on campus to educate their students about the harms of drug and alcohol abuse. These programs are typically included during orientation and attendance is required by all new students. During these programs, your school may address the health risks associated with misusing drugs and alcohol, as well as school standards and disciplinary actions that may be enforced.

Your school will also provide you with information for where you can go if you feel you may have a problem with substance dependency or abuse. On-campus counseling centers are usually a great place to start if you feel like you need help. Some schools may also have clubs that you can join that focus on recreational activities that don’t involve alcohol or drug consumption.

Besides the programs that are offered by colleges and universities, there are many additional resources available outside of your campus, where you may feel more comfortable seeking treatment.


HIPAA and Privacy Laws in the US

January 12th, 2018 by Jennifer Frankel

Many people would agree that medical information should be confidential, and in the US, there are laws that govern what information can be given out to third parties. This law, called HIPAA (or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), protects the “privacy and security of certain health information.” If you have ever had medical treatment covered by an insurance plan or if you’ve tried to get access to someone else’s medical information, you’ve probably heard about HIPAA.

What is HIPAA?

HIPAA is a set of security standards that regulates the privacy of individually identifiable health information (also known as Personal Health Information), including:

  • What information can be given out
  • How that information can be disclosed
  • Security measures to make sure information is protected

While this law is quite extensive, it’s important that international students recognize that it protects what information is given out by a doctor, hospital, or clinic, including how the information is transmitted and to whom it is given.

Confidentiality Matters

Many international students who seek medical attention in the US should know that the information they give to their healthcare provider is protected. No family member, friend, or school administrator has access to your medical records – even if you go to the student health center or counseling center. This means that they cannot call up your doctor to find out what happened. And the protection doesn’t stop there. Even the insurance company is bound to keep your information private, which means that they too are not allowed to divulge your medical information.

Some Roadblocks

Because the penalty is so high for a breach in confidentiality, many providers are very strict in it’s enforcement. Great news for those of you who want to make sure your medical information stays private, but not so easy if you need help getting a claim processed. Consider these scenarios.

  1. You are over the age of 18 and your mother called to follow-up on a pending claim. She was told that she could not get any personal information, and that you would need to call to get an update.
  2. Your international student advisor was kind enough to help you through the claim process, but was unable to get your medical records to submit to the insurance company. Your advisor contacts you and says that you must call directly.
  3. Your claim was processed, but was denied and not paid to your doctor. Your school advisor calls the insurance company to find out why it was denied, but they are told that you will need to call.

All of these are examples of how HIPAA may affect the way that your claim is processed, and what others can do on your behalf. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, though, where you can overcome these roadblocks by taking a few extra minutes and getting release forms signed.

Overcoming Roadblocks: The Release Form

So how does someone overcome the challenges of getting their medical information to the people or organizations that need it? Medical release or authorization forms!  You have the ability to give permission to companies and individuals allowing them access to your personal information by completing a medical release or authorization form from your insurance company or directly at the provider’s office.

Because these confidentiality rules apply to every healthcare provider, though, every doctor, hospital, and clinic – and even the insurance company – will need your authorization to give out your information to anyone but you!

Oftentimes, providers give you these forms right when you arrive for your appointment. Make sure to read the wording thoroughly, and ask questions as needed. Many forms often give the doctor, clinic or hospital authorization to release your information to the insurance company. This form may also allow you to name additional people you’d like to grant access to as well.

Tip: Be sure to list all individuals on this form to avoid having to add people later. This not only includes your insurance company, but may also include relatives or a school administrator who may be able to help you through the process. If you do not list them at the time of visit, you will need to call your provider’s office to see what the process is to add someone to the list of authorized individuals, otherwise you might have to request this information yourself.

If you do not fill out an authorization form, you may have to go directly to the provider to request your medical records in order to file a claim with your insurance company. You may also want to check with your insurance company to see if they have a medical release form. In some cases, the insurance company can send this to the provider so that they can get the medical information directly from the provider.

Note: Not every provider will accept the medical release form from the insurance company, so you may be required to fill out two: one from the insurance company and another from your provider.

The medical release form is also important if you want help filing a claim. If you are over 18 years old, your parent can’t get the status of your claim without this form. If you want to give them access, fill out the authorization form and send it back to the insurance company. Be sure to name all those people you would like to give access to, including a parent, school administrator, or even your insurance agent.

While privacy laws vary country by country, it’s very important that international students understand why these laws are in place, and what you need to do to prevent any delays with your claims. If you have questions about a claim, the best thing to do is look at your insurance card, find the contact information and be sure to ask all of your questions. While it may seem like busy work, the intent is to make sure you and your information are protected.

>> Learn more about the US Healthcare System

Common International Student Myths About Sexual Assault

December 28th, 2017 by Jacqueline Schultz

Sexual assault is a sensitive subject and can be difficult to explain and discuss, even in a safe space. Varying cultural perspectives may also prove to be challenging when engaging in an open and educational discussion around the topic. However, understanding the laws pertaining to sexual assault in the U.S. should be discussed with international students in order to prevent an incident and help students should one occur. One way to begin educating students, is by addressing the different perceptions and myths surrounding sexual assault. It is important to understand that myths are just that-myths. It is even more important to address common myths surrounding sexual assault in order to combat any misconceptions surrounding sexual assault.  

Myth 1: Victims Are “Asking for It” Based on Their Behavior

The idea that victims are the cause for an incident of sexual assault or harassment because of how they are dressed, how they are acting, or how much they are drinking is not true. Nobody anticipates or wants to be a victim of an attack, and they should not be required to change how they dress or act to avoid getting assaulted. Sexual assault is often about the attacker having a sense of control over their victims and is not the fault of the victim due to their behavior.

Myth 2: Only Women are Victims of Sexual Assault

The statement that men are never victims of sexual assault is simply not true. While the majority of attacks are against females, one out of sixteen men are also sexually assaulted in college. Overall, one in ten men are survivors of sexual assault. In addition,according to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 26% of gay men and 37% of bisexual men encounter incidents of sexual assault. These statistics prove that sexual assault can happen to anyone and does not discriminate based on race, culture or gender.

Myth 3: Being in a Relationship/Married Means You Consent To Sex

Consent is defined in the U.S. as sexual activity that is agreed upon by all parties before something happens. Consent can and should be both physical and verbal. Anyone has the right to withdraw consent at anytime during a sexual activity. This is also true of married couples and individuals in a relationship. RAINN reports that 25% of violent incidents are committed by a current or former spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend. Even if you are married or in a relationship, that does not entitle someone else to your body.   

Myth 4: Only Strangers Commit Acts of Violence

This statement is also false. In fact, seven out of ten incidents of sexual assault are committed by someone the survivor knows. This means that less than 30% are by a stranger. Additionally, this is also true on college campuses with students who are married, in a relationship, in class or is somehow acquainted with their attacker. An incident on one’s campus and committed by someone the survivor knows may be especially traumatic and distracting to studies. It is important to know that the school is available and ready to take care of both the survivor and the attacker if an incident does occur.

Myth 5: It’s Not Assault if You Are Drinking

Also wrong. Alcohol does not cause sexual assault, nor does it provide an excuse should an incident occur. However, alcohol can impair one’s judgment, which is why they are often associated with incidents on college campuses. An estimated one half of these incidents occur when alcohol is consumed by the perpetrator, survivor or both, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Additionally, most experts would say that the excessive consumption of alcohol negates the ability to give consent. It is important to know that there are steps that you can take to protect yourself and your friends when drinking. For example, it is important to always be aware of your surroundings, keep an eye on your drink and know your limits.

Myth 6: If You Report It, It May Impact Your Status

It is estimated that only 20% of female students report an attack and 42% of women do not tell anyone if they are assaulted. There are many reasons that students do not report an incident of sexual assault. However, international students may be concerned about filing a report because they are worried about the impact it may have on their immigration status. While international students should maintain a full course load, there are considerations if you receive approval through your Principal School Designated Official (PDSO). However, medical reasons only provide 12 months of academic relief. It is important to note that you are not required to disclose any information to receive approval on the grounds of academic or medical reasons.  As such, you are not required to tell your PDSO about an assault. If you do, though, your PDSO is required to report it to the proper authorities.

Sexual assault is difficult to talk about, but it is vital to be aware of the myths and facts around the topic. Keep in mind that your school is there to help you understand the facts and laws around sexual assault in the U.S. If an incident does occur, it is important to seek help and understand that it is never the fault of the survivor.


*These statistics are provided by RAINN. For more information, you may visit their website at:   

Announcing The 2017 Travel Video Contest Winners

November 23rd, 2017 by Sutherland Beever

Can you believe that it’s time to announce this year’s Travel Video Contest winners already? Over 100 international students from all over the world spent countless hours this year creating quality video submissions for the contest – all with the hopes of taking home the prized title of grand prize winner.

Unfortunately, only one video each year can take home the $4,000 prize, but that doesn’t make the other video submissions any less great! Don’t forget to take a look at all of the eligible video submissions.

And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for!

 The grand prize winner and recipient of the $4,000 cash prize is Dini Restyanti for her animated submission, “Finding My Ikigai.” On top of the title of contest winner and accompanying prize money, Dini is also encouraged to document her travels over the next year through an online blog on

The winner of the second place title and $500 prize is Laura Catalina Rey. Her video “Drawing my Trip” was drawn completely on a dry erase board!

The musically talented Eliel Freer-Sullivan has earned the third prize title and $250 cash prize for his video “New York, New York, My American Dream.”

The Viewers’ Choice winner is  Juan Sebastian Bayona Carrillo for his comical submission, “Making the US My New Home. In addition to receiving the most online votes, Juan is also the recipient of a $1,000 prize!

Click here to watch these award-winning videos!

A huge round of applause is deserved for the winners of this year’s contest! If you are interested in entering the contest next year, start reading up on the rules and regulations and watch as many videos of the past winners as you can. This will give you some great insight on what it takes to bring home the grand prize and who knows, maybe next year you’ll see your name on the winner’s page!

How do I Know What my Plan will and Won’t Cover?

November 15th, 2017 by Sutherland Beever


It’s important to keep in mind that health insurance plans in the United States aren’t designed to cover everything and different types of insurance plans will cover different things.  Ideally, an insurance plan will help cover a large portion of the bills that you incur from a doctor’s office or hospital, but there is a chance that you may seek treatment for something that your plan doesn’t cover – which means that you could be responsible for the entire bill yourself. 

We’re here to help you answer this question: How do I know what my insurance plan will cover?


Suggestion #1: Read your Policy Brochure or Certificate


After purchasing your insurance plan you will receive a variety of documents that should include a copy of your insurance ID card along with a copy of your policy brochure and certificate. These will typically be emailed to you, but they can also be mailed so you might not receive them instantly. Contained within these documents, or included as supplementary documents, these will outline how to use your plan, what doctors you can visit, and what your plan will and won’t cover.  Reading over your policy documents, especially the exclusions section (this is what your plan does not cover) will quickly allow you to confirm if something will be covered by your plan or not.

Tip: Since English is likely your second language this first suggestion can be confusing, depending on the words that are used within your insurance documents. If you are struggling with the first suggestion, it may be best to skip to suggestion #2.

Suggestion #2: Contact the Insurance Company


If you would prefer to talk to someone about your upcoming visit, that is also an option and may be the easiest one as well. The number on your insurance ID card should allow you to talk to a customer service representative at any time and depending on the company, translators may be available. If you aren’t familiar with the US healthcare system or insurance, asking your questions to a real, live person will be much more helpful than stumbling over confusing insurance terms used in a policy brochure or certificate.

Tip: It never hurts to ask for a translator – even if one isn’t available at that time, odds are that you can receive a call back once a translator is able to assist you.


In most cases, even someone working at the health insurance company won’t be able to confirm if your medical bills will be covered until after you have sought treatment and filed a claim.


This can be frustrating at times, but medical claims are paid based on medical records, so without the notes from your doctor’s appointment in-hand, your insurance can’t know if your visit was eligible for coverage.  If you are going to the doctor for a ‘straightforward visit’, such as getting an annual check-up, your insurance company should be able to confirm without much doubt if this type of visit would be covered by your plan. However, if you’re going to the doctor for a pain – this is more ambiguous, and medical records will be needed to determine if your visit will be covered by your insurance.

Tip: If you have time before an appointment be sure to phone the provider to make sure they are part of your insurance plan’s provider network. You can also call the number on your ID card or use an online provider search tool to help ensure that you visit a doctor that will accept your insurance plan.

Do you have any questions? If so, leave us a comment below and we’ll be happy to get back to you with an answer!

Sexual Assault Awareness and Safety Training for International Students

November 10th, 2017 by Yessica Prato

At International Student Insurance, we are dedicated to promoting international education and providing resources for schools all around the world to create awareness with their international students on topics like Mental Health and Sexual Assault.

This year we have partnered with RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, to develop a training program to help schools educate their international students on sexual assault, consent, staying safe, and bystander intervention. As part of this partnership, we are proud to announce our multi-media Sexual Assault Awareness and Safety for International Students Training Program that is available to schools. This free modular-based training program can be customized depending on the available time, and has been designed so that any school can implement it, as it comes with a step by step guide to walk administrators through the entire session.

The Sexual Assault Training Program has five key components:

  • A full length PowerPoint presentation that will guide educators and students through the training. The presentation is the heart of the training packet as the additional materials were built around it.
  • A complete proctor guide with a full script and talking points to walk the educator through the entire training.
  • Student activities to engage international students on this topic, and to help delve further into key concepts, reinforce the information, and encourage important dialogue.
  • Two videos:
    • Student Stories Video is a 7-minute video that showcases 11 international students and their perspectives on the subject of sex and consent from their home country compared to their experiences in the US.
    • Sexual Assault Awareness video is a 6-minute video that offers a concise overview of topics like sexual assault, consent, bystander intervention and what to do in case an assault takes place.
  • Sexual Assault pamphlet that summarizes the material covered in the training. Schools may request physical brochures at no cost.


For more information, please visit our website:

Please contact your NAFSA Region representative or our customer service representatives for any questions you have about the training.

The Ins and Outs of Pre-existing Conditions

October 20th, 2017 by Yessica Prato

Pre-existing conditions

If you are an international student or traveler, we recommend that you have a health insurance plan in case there is an accident or you suffer an illness and need to seek medical attention. When it comes to choosing an insurance plan, there are many important aspects that you should consider while you travel abroad. One of these is coverage for pre-existing conditions…. but what exactly are pre-existing conditions? How do insurance companies determine what a pre-existing condition is? What type of coverage do you need for pre-existing conditions? We will help you learn more about this type of coverage and what to look out for!


Pre-existing Conditions 101

What are pre-existing conditions?

Pre-existing conditions are any illnesses, injuries, or other physical, medical, mental, or nervous conditions, disorder or ailment that existed prior to the start date of your insurance plan. These conditions may be known or unknown – this means that even if you didn’t have any symptoms or a medical diagnosis, and then the condition presented itself spontaneously, it could be considered a pre-existing condition.


How are pre-existing conditions determined?

Any illness or injury will be carefully evaluated by your primary care physician or the emergency room doctor. Your doctor will run a series of tests and lab work and he or she will determine the most accurate date as to when your illness or injury began. All of these lab exams and data will help your doctor create your medical records.

Medical records are the systematic documentation of a patient’s medical history and care. Once your treatment concludes, you or your provider will file a claim by sending your medical records along with your medical bills to the insurance company. Then, the insurance company will have a professional claim examiner review the information and they will determine if your condition will be covered under the benefits of your plan.

For example, let’s say that your coverage began on Monday. By Wednesday of the same week, your back began hurting. Instinctively, you went to the hospital because the pain was very intense. After many tests, the ER doctor concludes that you have kidney stones. Usually, kidney stones take approximately 3-4 months to form. This means that it would be considered a pre-existing condition for your plan since your coverage started only 2 days ago. Even if you didn’t feel any pain before, the kidney stones have been forming for 3-4 months already.


Coverage for pre-existing conditions

International health insurance plans are designed to cover new illnesses and injuries for shorter periods of time. The coverage for pre-existing conditions varies from plan to plan. Some plans cover pre-existing conditions from the start of your coverage, other plans cover these conditions after a waiting period, and other will only cover an acute onset of a pre-existing condition. It’s important to be aware of the type of coverage you think best fits your needs.


Coverage for an acute onset of a pre-existing condition

Certain insurance plans will only cover an acute onset of a pre-existing condition. This means it will cover medical expenses for a sudden and unexpected outbreak or recurrence of a pre-existing condition. Generally, the unexpected outbreak must occur spontaneously and without advance warning, is of short duration, and requires you to obtain treatment within 24 hours of the sudden outbreak of your pre-existing condition.

An acute onset of a pre-existing condition cannot be covered if it’s a condition that you need to control with medicine or that is gradually becoming worse over time.

Our Atlas Travel plan offers this type of coverage as it will cover up to $25,000 USD of your medical expenses for an acute onset of a pre-existing condition.


Coverage for pre-existing conditions after a waiting period

Some insurance plans offer coverage for certain pre-existing conditions after a waiting period since they might be designed for people that will travel outside of their home country for more than a year. For example, our Student Secure plan offers coverage for a pre-existing condition after a 12 month waiting period on the Budget level and after a 6 month waiting period on the Select and Elite levels. The plan can also be renewed for up to 4 years total.

Additionally, our Student Health Advantage plan will also give you coverage for pre-existing conditions after a 12 month waiting period on the Standard level and 6 month waiting period on the Platinum level. This plan can be renewed up to 5 years total.

In order to maintain the coverage for your pre-existing conditions, you will need to have the plan active for the total amount of the waiting period. You will also need to renew the plan if you choose to continue having this pre-existing condition coverage.


Coverage for pre-existing conditions from day 1

As we mentioned before, most travel and student insurance plans will only cover new illnesses and injuries. However, there are certain plans in the US that offer coverage for pre-existing conditions from the first day your coverage starts. Our Global Medical plan – Platinum level offers coverage for pre-existing conditions as soon as the policy starts as long as your application is approved. It’s a medically underwritten plan which means that there will be a series of medical questions and the application will be submitted for review to the insurance company. Another option would be ACA compliant plans, which are required by law to include coverage for pre-existing conditions. International students are exempt, for up to 5 years, from needing to purchase an ACA compliant plan. However if your school does provide an ACA compliant plan, it will include coverage for pre-existing conditions, typically from day 1.  


Because medical care is very expensive in the United States, before leaving your home country, we recommend:

  • Get a general check up – if there is an illness or injury that has not been discovered or you haven’t presented symptoms, it could be found and treated before you leave your home country. This also includes an eye exam and a dental check up.
  • Prescription medication – If you are currently being treated for a condition, it’s possible that your new insurance plan will not cover this medication as it’s for your pre-existing condition. Make sure to bring enough medicine with you while you fulfill any waiting periods for your plan.
  • Medical recordsMany people believe that the insurance company will not request medical records from their home country because they may be in another language or are not relevant to the current condition. This is incorrect; the insurance company will have access to your health records once you purchase a plan with them. In addition, they have official interpreters in different languages and have the ability to translate these records.


medical recordsHopefully this overview of pre-existing conditions addressed most of your questions and explained how these conditions are determined. Always remember to check your coverage and make sure you choose the most appropriate plan for your needs.

We recommend watching our video on the US healthcare system which shows a general summary of how healthcare works here and will give you tips on how to prepare before traveling to the US.

Insurance Carrier Ratings and Why They Matter

September 19th, 2017 by Leah Hammond

Travel Medical Insurance plan update
When purchasing a health insurance plan, there are many factors to consider. What does the plan cover? How much does it cost? Will it be accepted by your school? One thing that you may not think about when considering your options is the insurance rating of the carrier that is behind your insurance plan, and ultimately paying your medical bills. Why is this important, you ask? To put it simply, the rating of the insurance carrier shows the financial strength and stability of the company, and their ability to pay for eligible medical claims. The higher the rating, the more financially secure the insurance company is, compared to those that have lower ratings and are not as financially secure. To help with making your decision, we will explain insurance carrier ratings and why they matter, the different credit rating agencies, and the ratings of the plans we offer at International Student Insurance.  

Carrier Ratings – Why Do They Matter? 

The concept of insurance can be very complicated and finding the right plan may be an overwhelming task. When searching for a plan that suits your needs, you will want to make sure that the plan is underwritten by a carrier with a solid rating – typically we recommend an A rating or better. When purchasing an insurance plan, you are entering into a contract with the insurance carrier whereby you will pay the premium for the plan, and they agree to cover you in the event of an eligible claim. The question then arises – will the insurance carrier be capable of upholding this agreement? Does the company have the financial stability to pay claims as promised? To answer these questions and to feel confident that you’ve purchased the best plan, you will want to review different agency ratings to see how the insurance carrier is viewed in the insurance marketplace.

Credit Rating Agencies

Credit rating agencies play an important role in determining the strength and reliability of the insurance carrier. These agencies provide independent opinions of the creditworthiness of the carrier and their ability to pay policyholders’ claims. Each agency has their own rating scale and standards that are used to assist consumers like you in making the right decision to protect you in case of a medical emergency. The ratings of each carrier will vary from agency to agency so it is always a good idea to consider more than one agency’s ratings when choosing your insurance plan.

There are four major agencies that rate the financial strength of insurance carriers – Standard & Poor’s, A.M. Best Company, Fitch, and Moody’s. As mentioned, each agency uses a different rating scale, which is publicly available on their websites. The ratings are usually a combination of letters and plus (+) or minus (-) signs to indicate the variations in class. For example, Standard and Poor’s highest rate is AAA for Extremely Strong, while A.M. Best uses A++ for Superior as their highest rating. 

Differences in Credit Ratings

Depending on the credit rating agency, ratings can range from AAA+ to F. When considering a health insurance plan, we typically recommend using a company with an “A” rating or better. Companies with “A” ratings are generally considered to be the most financially stable and will have the ability to pay your eligible medical claims. An “A” rating is also important for the long-term dependability of the company – a better rating means that the company is less likely to fail in the future and go out of business. Keep in mind that it is best to stay away from companies with C or D ratings, as they are considered to be very weak and will not be reliable when it comes to paying for your eligible claims. Furthermore, F ratings mean failure or insolvency, which means the company is unable to pay for your claims.

International Student Insurance – Carrier Ratings

Finding the best health insurance plan is already time-consuming enough, so researching the plan’s carrier rating is probably the last thing on your mind. Luckily, the plans that we offer at International Student Insurance are underwritten by well-known carriers with high ratings.

The Student Secure and Atlas Travel Medical plans are underwritten by Lloyds of London. Lloyds is the largest and oldest insurance market in the world, with 325 years as the world’s leading market for specialist insurance. They are rated A (Excellent) by A.M Best. Company and A+ (Strong) by Standard and Poor’s.

The Student Health Advantage and Patriot Travel Medical plans are unwritten by Sirius International. Sirius offers financial security and a worldwide reputation and are rated A (Excellent) by A.M. Best Company and A- (Strong) by Standard and Poor’s.

Knowing the carrier rating of your health insurance plan is an important part of choosing the best insurance plan. Some visa categories, like J1 and J2, even require you to meet certain standards for carrier ratings. Remember that there are many different insurance options available, so doing your research and asking questions will ensure that you choose a plan that will be able to cover you if a situation arises in the future.

The 2017 Travel Video Contest is Now Open!

September 6th, 2017 by Sutherland Beever

The Travel Video Contest on is back and ready to help even more international students reach their dreams!

To enter this year’s contest, all you need is a bit of ambition, the desire to travel or study abroad, some decent videotaping equipment, and the editing software of your choice.  Odds are, you already have been bitten by the travel bug and you may even have a smartphone in your pocket to film your project, so what are you waiting for? Oh, and did I mention that the Grand Prize winner gets $4,000?!? Yes, you read that right – $4,000!

Want to check out the other awesome prizes?

We like to keep things simple. Here’s what you really need to know: 

  • Your video needs to be high quality, of course, and can’t be more than 4 minutes long.
  • Current international students must make a video about a trip that you would like to take in the future.
  • Future international students need to make a video about the experiences and knowledge that you will gain as an international student.
  • Your video needs to stand out among the competition, so be sure to bring your voice and creativity to your submission.

This is one of those amazing opportunities where there really isn’t a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to go about your film, presuming you follow the short set of rules.  One of the best things about the Travel Video Contest is that the contest doesn’t have strict guidelines. Other than the length and subject matter of your video, so feel free to make your submission as serious or as goofy as you are.  You could choose to narrate your story through an original song – or a sock puppet named George. You are the director, the subject matter and the editor of your film, so all of the decisions are yours to make!

Need some tips and tricks to get filming?

Dates to Remember:

Submission Deadline – October 13th, 2017

Finalists Announced – the week of November 6th, 2017

Winners Announced – November 17th, 2017

One Last Thing:

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t have a collection of fancy video editing software or a professional camera at your disposal. Smart phones these days have crystal-clear images and there are tons of quality (and completely free) editing software out there. Where there is a will, there is a way!

Click here to get started.


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.
Student Health Insurance

Atlas Travel

International Travel Medical Insurance for anyone outside of their home country.
Travel Medical Insurance

Global Medical

International Major Medical Insurance for those needing long term coverage.
Major Medical Insurance

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