How to Evaluate Health Insurance Options – A Guide for Community Colleges

Erin Caswell | 3-6-2019

Did you know tuition fees for international students on community college campuses are approaching twice the cost of in-state tuition? Meeting these financial obligations is challenging enough for international students and their families; don’t add the stress of navigating the U.S. healthcare system to their to-do list. Take healthcare off your international students’ plates by implementing a mandated health insurance plan that has been specifically designed to address the unique needs of your campus’ multinational population. The good news is that there are any number of high-quality organizations providing specialized international student health insurance coverage.

This, of course, begs the question: What should I focus on when evaluating all the options out there? Below you’ll find a quick checklist of what to look for and why.

 

Look at the coverage itself

Even if you’re not an insurance expert, you can quickly assess how a plan will help the majority of your students. For instance, a plan that offers low copays,  no deductible, and 100% coinsurance for services received at a preferred network provider will positively impact every student utilizing the plan. On the other hand, employer style health plans that offer unlimited annual benefits typically will not affect any of your students in a given year (hopefully), but will increase your premium rates.

 

Place a high value on Mental Health

Despite the tremendous support systems offered by schools and communities, many international students struggle with feelings of homesickness, isolation, and depression. International students also may have trouble dealing with the stress that comes with not only starting at a new school but also experiencing a completely new culture. They may struggle with everything from maintaining a healthy diet to making new friends to meeting financial obligations. Coping with these mental challenges is difficult even for Americans!

Look for a plan that not only includes substantial mental health benefits but also provides alternate and immediate avenues for international students to seek help. The more options they have to ask for help, the more likely they will be to reach out. Morneau Shepell’s My Student Support Program (My SSP) is a great example of mental health support tailored for international students.. My SSP helps international students who need assistance acclimating to life in a new country by matching them with licensed counselors who know their native language and culture. Immediate support is available in six core languages and ongoing support is provided in more than 60 languages via app, chat, web, telephone and video 24/7. Click here to learn more about this program.

 

Make sure the insurance program meets the unique needs of international students attending your school

Do you have a lot of students who transfer in or out of your school? If so, a plan with an Extended Coverage benefit is essential: Extended Coverage offers students free coverage 30 days before or after the policy’s official start and end dates to accommodate the logistical needs of your traveling or transferring students.

Or, does your school have a Student Health Center? If so, look for a policy that offers to cover benefits received at the student health center at 100% and with no copay required.

Does your school not have a Student Health Center? That’s okay. Find an insurance plan that covers nearby clinics like CVS or Walgreens without a copay.

Is finding a ride to a clinic a challenge for your students? Look for a plan with a robust telemedicine offering whereby speaking or video-chatting with a doctor is right at your students’ fingertips. Even better, this is available anytime, day or night.

 

Look for plans that offer significant medical evacuation and repatriation benefits

In those cases where an international student may be facing a particularly challenging medical diagnosis, his or her family and vital support system may reside a world away. A good plan will include a medical evacuation benefit that will help arrange, and pay for, the student to return home so he or she can receive the needed care and support. Better plans will include additional, similar benefits such as a compassionate visit in which a student’s family member may be flown to the U.S. to be by their side. Make sure to check out the exclusions listed for these assistance services.

 

Intangibles mean more than you might initially think.

As you are aware, many international students at community colleges feel considerable financial pressure. Their visas don’t allow them to work (unless on OPT), but they’re financially responsible for higher tuition, fees, living expenses, etc. Look for insurance companies that offer scholarships designed for international students.

 

When in doubt, choose a specialist.

And now, a shameless little plug, if you don’t mind. You’ve likely read this blog because international students are a chief focus of yours. The same can be said for us at LewerMark. We’ve been servicing the health insurance needs of international students since 1991. We’re not the biggest company by any stretch of the imagination, and we like it that way (so do our school partners). Our Customer Advocates frequently develop personal connections with the students whom they serve and our Program Management team is well-respected by international student advisors.

In addition, LewerMark’s dedicated team includes professionals with substantial, hands-on experience in international education. This includes former international directors, international student educators, and even former international students (one of which was even covered by LewerMark during the course of her studies at a community college).

So when we say we understand the needs of international students and the schools they attend, we mean that literally.

If you are interested in learning more about LewerMark’s international student insurance program, please contact Erin Caswell, Assistant Vice President of LewerMark, 800.821.7715, ext. 157 or via email at ecaswell@lewer.com.

 

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.