4 Tips for Selecting a Health Insurance Plan for International Students

Nik LewerNik Lewer | February 8, 2017

This year, the number of international students in US colleges surpassed one million for the first time, bringing more than $32 billion a year into the US economy. Now, more than ever, colleges and universities should carefully consider the health options available to their international students. Four great tips are included below to help schools navigate the market for international student health insurance plans.

4. Design Suitability

International students are a unique demographic within the entire student population, and as such, they have unique insurance needs. For example, international students need repatriation services and emergency evacuation benefits—considerations that never enter the equation for domestic students. When you review various health insurance plans, you must think about the design of the plan: How suitable is it for international students? Will it meet their needs? What does it offer versus plans that might be suitable for domestic students?

3. Support from the Insurance Provider

Another key issue for student advisors and other school personnel reviewing health insurance plan options is the level of support offered by the insurance provider. Whether or not you currently work with an insurance provider for your international students, many factors come into play when evaluating your options. How often does your representative offer face-to-face orientations to explain insurance and healthcare in the US to international students? How frequently do you receive updates about your coverage and claims?

 

Consider the kind of support you want your provider to offer as well. What would you consider timely and effective communication? Can you easily contact your representative to help resolve any issues you’re experiencing related to administration of the plan, claims, or even an emergency event on campus or for a student while they are off campus? You may need to do a request for proposal (RFP) to compare your plan and ideal level of support with what you’re getting if you already have an insurance provider. Which plan offers you the level of support you’re most comfortable with?

2. Stable Plan Rates

Today’s world is often turbulent, and predicting future insurance rates may seem to be an endeavor that requires a crystal ball, especially after the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)! That could mean that you receive some unpleasant surprises about your plan coverage; in today’s environment, insurance providers may be unable or unwilling to commit to stable rates. US healthcare inflation has a long term average of roughly 5.5%, so you should not expect to receive the same rate forever; however, you should seek out an insurance partner that can offer you some peace of mind through steady, stable rates. As other plans look to jump anywhere from 20% to 50% to compensate for the unlimited benefits promised by plans that are compliant with the ACA, you should seek out a plan that will offer you more stable rates.

1. Fair Plan Rates

Perhaps the biggest concern on the minds of those evaluating health insurance plan options is cost. The bottom line cost should not be the end-all, be-all of choosing a plan. Be wary of offers that seem to good to be true! A stable rate is better than a low rate that might jump up 50% after just a year of coverage. Another major consideration is what kind of coverage you are actually receiving. A plan may look like a great deal on paper, but upon closer examination, you may realize the low rate being offered is only available because certain key features are entirely absent from the plan! A best practice is to carefully review your policy in its entirety, with a special focus on the exclusions. You want to ensure that your international students receive the best possible coverage for the best possible price. You should be asking not “how much does this plan cost?” but “what kind of coverage do we get for this price?”

How to Evaluate International Student Health Insurance Options

Nik Lewer

Nik is vice president at The Lewer Agency. He has over 10 years of experience in global benefits and human resources consulting, and helped grow a team of global benefits consultants from two to 25 nationwide. He is an International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists (ISCEBS) fellow, certified as a Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR), and is licensed in Life, Accident, and Health insurance. Nik’s wide range of interests include mountain climbing, hiking, playing guitar and live music, reading, watching movies, staying up on current events, long distance running, good food and drinks, long walks on the beach, and knitting.

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