By David Gutierrez
Health care insurance is a major part of life in the US, so all students coming to this country must understand exactly how it would work for them. The majority of schools require mandatory insurance, which is good as there is no such thing as free medical care for international travelers in America. Only a rare few programs can accept an international student, but their medical services are extremely limited and won’t do much good in an emergency situation.
As an international student in the US, you need to follow the news about health care as the changes in this field affect your life directly. You also need to know how to find the best insurance policy and what factors to consider when making this choice.
Health Care Costs for International Students in the US
The main reason why international students should get medical insurance even if it’s not mandatory in their colleges is the cost of health care in the US. A single visit to the emergency room can turn into a thousand dollar bill mailed to you within weeks of the event.
Student Health Care centers usually located on campus offer cheaper services, but even those can sum up to make a hefty dent in your bank account. Also, you must understand that these medical facilities may be unable to render the exact kind of service you need, so you’ll be referred to an off-campus professional, which means an increase in costs.
Obamacare (ACA) and Its Effect on Students
The so-called ‘Obamacare’ (Affordable Care Act) is a topic of great controversy regarding medical insurance. One of the most common complaints about it is the penalty one has to pay when their policy doesn’t meet the criteria specified in this act.
Luckily, as international students aren’t American citizens, they are exempt from this law as long as they retain the status of ‘non-alien residents’. This includes all holders of F, J, M, and Q visas. However, when you spend over five years in the US, your tax status changes to ‘resident alien’. At this point, you will be subject to the same regulations as US citizens in regards to medical insurance. It means that you’ll have to look for an Obamacare-compliant policy.
Those are usually more expensive as they are designed for a lifetime. Some more news is that the new Trump Administration is vying for a health care reform. The new American Health Care Act has failed to get passed into law, but it’s reasonable to expect new ACA alternatives soon. Both current and aspiring international students should stay tuned for more Health Care Reform information.
The Best Sources of International Student Medical Insurance
It’s true that medical insurance is mandatory for most schools as well as some types of American visas (J1 and F1 in particular). However, these rules rarely stipulate that your policy must come from some specific provider. This gives students a chance to seek out the most affordable insurance. The options you can choose from are:
- Independent insurers.
These policies usually are more expensive, but they might be better suited for your personal needs.
- College insurance programs.
Many schools offer specialized insurance policies. They are more affordable and designed specifically to fit an average student. You can also be 100% sure that this policy will be accepted by the Student Health Center in your college.
- Student organizations.
The majority of international scholarship programs, like Fulbright and USAID, offer insurance packages of their own. These might be mandatory for the students participating in the program.
Unless required to purchase a specific type of policy, you should always shop around and compare all the options on offer. Be sure to consider not only the size of the premiums but also your unique health needs so that you truly make the best choice.
David Gutierrez has worked in the field of web design since 2005. Right now he started learning Java in order to get second occupation. His professional interests defined major topics of his articles. David writes about new web design software, recently discovered professional tricks and also monitors the latest updates of the web development.