Study abroad medical insurance is highly recommended for any student studying in another country.
Studying abroad is an exciting experience that many students look forward to doing. Considering the cost associated with studying abroad, students and their parents spend a great amount of time researching the host country, making accommodation arrangements, deciding what exactly to study, transportation to their host location, and daily life while there.
The experience of studying abroad may be one that students cherish for many years to come. However, they often overlook study abroad insurance. Some people think that nothing will happen to them, while others mistakenly assume that their domestic health insurance will cover them while abroad.
Domestic Health Insurance
The domestic health insurance that students usually have through their parents or on their own provides excellent coverage while they are still in their home country. Prior to studying abroad, you should check with your health insurance company to confirm exactly what coverage they provide, if any, while outside your home country. From our own research, we have learned the following are the usual problems associated with domestic insurance plans:
- No coverage outside the home country.
- Coverage provided outside the home country is only in the event of an emergency. Please understand what constitutes an "emergency".
- Coverage abroad is considered outside the PPO network. That means you would have to pay a higher deductible, higher coinsurance, and a higher out-of-pocket maximum. Of course, there would be no network-negotiated fees, and the insurance company may only pay what they would normally pay if you were to visit a provider in the PPO network. That could leave a significant amount of out-of-pocket expenses for you, which can easily run into several thousands of dollars or more.
- Many hospitals abroad will not provide any treatment without a payment guarantee, which only travel insurance companies tend to do. Domestic health insurance companies generally do not provide any such guarantees. This means that you will have to pay upfront, and it can be tens of thousands of dollars. Either you would have to travel with an extensive amount of money, or your credit card should have a sufficient limit. Additionally, some hospitals may not even accept foreign credit cards.
- Emergency medical evacuation and repatriation of mortal remains are not covered.
- You will typically have to pay out of your own pocket and file for reimbursement. If the expenses are high, it can be very difficult to make financial arrangements.
In any case, you should continue to maintain your domestic health insurance so that you are covered immediately before and after your trip. In addition, if you need to return home for further treatment or need long-term care, your domestic health insurance will be essential while in your home country.
Study Abroad Insurance
A comprehensive study abroad insurance plan is necessary and recommended for several reasons:
Student Health Issues Abroad
- Many students become sick unexpectedly, as they live in close proximity with other students that became sick.
- Most students have never been abroad, and their body is simply not used to the foreign food, water, dust, mosquitoes, or other hazards. Diarrhea, stomach upset, and other illnesses are very common.
Such things cannot be completely avoided, but study abroad insurance can help pay for treatment.
Study abroad insurance provides peace of mind to the parents. An experienced insurance company is available to provide 24/7 assistance and medical, financial, and logistical support in case of a need. The student can call the 24/7 emergency department of the insurance company that has resources in place that will assist them.
Depending upon the plan, the insurance company can also help with problems such as legal trouble, liability, crisis management, lost passport or credit cards, and an emergency refill of prescription drugs.
Emergency Medical Evacuation
If your student were to become seriously injured or sick while abroad in a remote location, study abroad insurance can arrange for transportation to a location where adequate care can be given. Travel insurance companies usually collaborate with the most suitable evacuation companies. Although money may not be an issue for some, knowing how to handle urgent situations while so far away from your child may be.
Repatriation of Mortal Remains
In an unfortunate event that death occurs while studying abroad, study abroad health insurance can arrange for the local cremation or return of mortal remains back to the home country. This involves many formalities with local law enforcement agencies, the Embassy, the hospital, the airline, and other parties that may be involved. This is simply not feasible to arrange on your own without physically being present there. Luckily, travel insurance companies have local resources available to quickly and efficiently assist with the process.
Some hospitals will not release you until payment is made. Travel insurance companies are used to dealing with many hospitals in many different countries, and can make payment arrangements for ease of treatment. In general, travel insurance companies are always willing to work with hospitals worldwide for direct billing and payment.
In case a student is hospitalized in a foreign location, there is nothing more comforting than a parent being able to be by their side. Many study abroad insurance plans pay for such visits.
In fact, many high schools and universities require their students to purchase study abroad insurance because they realize it is of utmost importance due to their prior experiences. Some universities offer a sponsored group health insurance plan, but allow you to waive it as long as you can show proof of a comparable study abroad insurance policy.
The international student health insurance cost will vary based on your age, policy maximum, deductible, and the duration of the trip. However, it is best to compare several study abroad insurance plans to make sure that the one you purchase meets your needs. You should not decide simply based on the price.
It is important to review the exclusions of the study abroad insurance to make sure you get the coverage you need:
Pre-Existing Medical Conditions
If you have pre-existing medical conditions, most study abroad insurance plans will not cover them. Therefore, you should make proper arrangements, such as making sure you have appropriate medications with you as well as a thought out plan for treatment should you need it.
Alcohol & Drug Abuse
When studying abroad, students are at an age where parties and socializing with new friends is very common. However, students should clearly understand that study abroad insurance will not cover any incidents that occur while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, as they are willingly exposing themselves to risks. It may already be difficult to receive proper treatment in some foreign countries; you should not increase your risk by abusing alcohol and drugs.
It is important for students studying abroad to take some time off from their studies and have fun by participating in extracurricular activities or sports. Most study abroad insurance plans exclude injuries or accidents that occur while participating in hazardous sports activities; some insurance plans cover them at no additional cost while others require an extra cost for coverage. Included or excluded coverage for sports activities vary based on the specific insurance plan; therefore, you should review the policy to make sure that your activities are covered.
Routine Medical Care
Study abroad insurance excludes routine medical care, such as dental, physical examinations or general checkups, eye exams, and prescription glasses.
- You should visit your primary care physician for a general checkup, plus your dentist, optometrist, gynecologist, and other physicians prior to leaving for a study abroad trip. This may help you avoid unnecessary expenses while abroad. Of course, physical checkups and other visits will not prevent illness or medical emergencies from occurring abroad; but they will at least detect existing medical problems, giving you time to do something about them before leaving for your study abroad trip. Be sure to keep a copy of your medical records while traveling to other countries.
- Depending upon the location you are traveling to, you may need additional immunizations. Visit a nearby travel immunization clinic well in advance to receive the required immunizations. Please note that some immunizations may require the scheduling of multiple doses over a certain duration, sometimes weeks or months apart. In case of this situation, you should plan well ahead of departure time.
- Keep your insurance card with you at all times, and be prepared to make upfront payments. Always keep your credit or debit card with you in case a hospital accepts electronic payment.
Whether studying abroad for a few weeks, a summer, a semester, or longer, it is always advisable to purchase study abroad insurance. The best health insurance for students studying abroad will depend on a variety of factors, including the country you're studying in, the duration of the program, and the school you will be attending. Don't leave it to the last minute, forget about it, or not allow yourself sufficient time to research an adequate insurance policy for your needs.