Many international students studying in the US stay for multiple years. Most of them stay for at least one-and-a-half to two years.
It is extremely important to purchase international student insurance that will cover the entire duration of the international student's stay without any gaps in coverage. To ensure there are no gaps, it is necessary to choose a renewable international student insurance plan that can cover the entire duration of stay in the US, whether the international student studies in the US for nine months or over four years.
If you buy an insurance that is not renewable, or can't be renewed for your entire duration, you will likely run into serious issues related to pre-existing conditions.
Pre-Existing Conditions and International Student Insurance
In order to understand why you should purchase a renewable international student insurance, it is very important to understand pre-existing conditions.
Pre-existing conditions are any medical conditions that existed before the effective date of the policy. The exact definition may vary slightly based on the insurance company.
After the effective date of the policy, the insured international student must wait for a specified duration (duration varies by plan) before the pre-existing conditions would be covered by their international student medical insurance plan.
Look Back Period
A medical condition that existed within a specified duration before the effective date of the policy would be considered a pre-existing condition. The specified duration may be six months, 12 months, two years or more, depending on the plan.
The following scenarios will help you understand how renewable medical insurance is extremely advantageous:
Let's assume you purchase a non-renewable insurance plan that has a six-month waiting period and it can only be purchased for a maximum of one year.
- If you already have a pre-existing medical condition before the effective date of the policy, you would have to wait for six months before the insurance company starts covering anything related to the pre-existing condition. Once the maximum duration of one year is over, you will have to purchase a new insurance plan. However, the waiting period will start all over again in a new insurance plan.
- If you are diagnosed with a medical condition towards the end of the one-year period, your insurance plan may expire before the treatment is complete. If the plan does not have a benefit period, you will no longer be covered by the insurance plan. Even if it has a benefit period, you will only be covered for a limited time after the plan ends.
- Once you buy a new insurance plan, the condition that you developed earlier would be considered a pre-existing condition and may be excluded altogether, or may again have a waiting period, which could be devastating to you, both financially and medically.
On the other hand, if you have purchased a renewable plan with the same six-month waiting period using the same scenarios as above:
- The condition will be covered after the six-month waiting period. It would continue to be covered for the entire duration of your policy as long as you renew, which could last for the duration of your studies in the US.
- If you are diagnosed with a new medical condition after the effective date of the policy and is an eligible expense, it would continue to be covered through the policy duration by renewing the policy. Coverage could last the duration of your studies in the US.
Having the ability to renew your international student health insurance plan can really make a big difference between getting extremely valuable coverage when you need it the most, not being covered properly, or having no coverage at all.
It's important to pay attention to more than just the cost of your insurance. You should understand how it will work in the future, so even if you find an insurance plan that is low-cost but can be purchased only for a short duration, it may not be the most suitable plan for you. The longer the duration of your studies, the more likely that you will develop medical conditions that could require treatment. Therefore, make sure to purchase international student insurance that is renewable and will cover you for your entire duration.
Of course, if your school offers an ACA compliant insurance plan or you are able to enroll into an ACA compliant plan, it will not exclude pre-existing conditions and it will not have a waiting period. However, such insurance plans will be a lot more expensive and will not cover important benefits such as emergency medical evacuation and repatriation of remains that are important for international students studying away from home. In that case, standalone emergency evacuation and repatriation insurance should be purchased, at least for exchange visitors to fulfill their J visa insurance requirements.