Committing to study abroad is both exciting and a bit nerve-wracking. While the experience is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for American students, there are also inherent risks in opting to study outside the US. Protecting yourself with a study abroad insurance policy is one of the most important steps to take before leaving for your trip. In fact, some schools and countries may even require that you carry insurance before you can pursue your global studies.
But selecting an insurance policy can be intimidating—almost as anxiety-inducing as the decision to study abroad in the first place! If you’re feeling a bit lost or overwhelmed by all of the choices you have, follow these four tips to help select the best insurance policy for you.
4. Basic Medical Coverage
Some schools will require you to carry study abroad insurance; they won’t let you join the program or get off the ground without it. In some cases, that means the school has a mandated plan. In almost all cases, schools will have recommendations for the minimum of coverage a plan should meet.
A basic medical coverage plan should offer you a minimum of $100,000 in coverage for both emergency medical services and medical evacuation, although more is almost never a bad idea, as medical expenses can add up quickly. Your policy should also include 24-hour assistance and access to a global network of medical providers.
3. A Few Extra Dollars Now …
… can save you a lot of money later. Study abroad insurance is cheap! Go ahead, spend a few extra bucks for a better plan; many students will find that a more comprehensive policy is desirable for their study abroad insurance.
While a basic coverage plan may be cheaper, it could mean that you end up paying more out of pocket later. Not all insurance plans are created equal, and those with lower prices tend to have less coverage—which can mean higher deductibles or simply less coverage overall. For example, if your plan covers up to $50,000 and your medical bill totals $70,000, you’ll be on the hook for $20,000. Suddenly, the couple of extra bucks in your pocket from the cheaper plan doesn’t seem like it was worth it!
2. Look for Combined Travel Insurance
While health insurance is possibly the most important facet of study abroad insurance, you should also look for a plan that has some built-in travel insurance. Since you’ll be traveling, there’s a good chance you’ll encounter some of the common complications of travel: lost or delayed luggage, stolen passport or ID, or other common problems.
You may even need to delay, shorten, or outright cancel your trip, which can translate into lost money if you’ve paid in advance for flights or accommodations. Study abroad insurance that has travel insurance built into it will protect you against all of these situations.
1. Check the Limits
Not all plans are created equal, and nowhere is that more evident than in the limitations and exclusions some policies impose on study abroad insurance. Always be sure to investigate the limitations the provider imposes on the plan before you sign on the dotted line.
Does the plan completely exclude your pre-existing condition? If so, you may want to continue shopping around. What are the plan’s deductibles? Sometimes, a plan with an attractive price will have a high deductible, which will leave you paying a hefty upfront cost in the event you do need medical attention.
If you’re considering coverage under a current plan you have through your school or your parents, be sure the plan will cover you in all of the countries you may travel to and that it will cover you over an extended stay. If your school offers a plan that’s great! Be sure to make yourself aware of any limitations that plan carries with it—you can always opt for additional individual insurance if the coverage isn’t comprehensive.
Author: Erin Caswell
Erin is Assistant Vice President of LewerMark Student Insurance division. Erin has a degree in Education and worked as an instructor before joining LewerMark more than six years ago.