The Importance of Mandating International Student Insurance

Nik LewerNik Lewer | April 21, 2017

As a school administrator, you know it’s important that international students have medical insurance to cover their stay in the US. And you also know that international students have unique needs, different from those of the domestic student body—that’s why your international office exists! You know that there are plenty of reasons why it makes sense to separate international student insurance from the domestic student plan. 

Some institutions don’t mandate their international student insurance program, however. Mandating insurance for your institution’s growing international student population is actually very important—almost as important as separating coverage for international and domestic students. Here’s why you should consider mandating your insurance policy for international students.

Put Everyone on Equal Footing

When schools don’t mandate insurance coverage, they leave students to their own devices in shopping for and selecting insurance plans. For many students, that’s not only frustrating, it can also be somewhat dangerous. Students from other countries, especially those with state-funded healthcare systems, may not understand the extent of coverage they need. Those who do not speak English natively may be confused by complex insurance terminology. And some students will be seduced by the promise of low, low prices, without checking to make sure the coverage actually provides what they need. 

Once the initial plan selection is over, students may be further frustrated when they go to use their coverage, only to find that they don’t have the insurance they thought they did. With a mandated plan, students will all receive the same international student insurance, so you needn’t worry about some students being less covered than others.

Protect and Help Students

The US healthcare system is complex, and navigating it can be a tall task, even for those who have lived with it their entire lives. For students coming from other countries with sometimes vastly different healthcare systems, the system can seem overwhelming. That’s where mandating an insurance policy can help. 

With a mandated international student insurance policy, your school can be sure all students have the same level of coverage—which means fewer out-of-pocket costs and fewer surprises when the medical bill does arrive. 

Depending on your policy, your insurance company may also be able to offer students assistance, in the language of their choice, when they do need to access the healthcare system and seek medical treatment.

Protect Medical Providers From Huge Unpaid Hospital Bills

Another thing that mandating an international student insurance policy does is help protect medical providers, such as physicians and hospitals, in your school community. When students lack coverage or have inadequate coverage, they may not be prepared to pay the bills for medical service.

Not only does this cause students a great deal of worry, it can also hurt medical providers. If students lack adequate coverage, they may be left on the hook for the bill—and they may not be able to cover it. Worse, some students may simply decide not to pay, which means someone along the line has to swallow the cost of providing service. Lost revenue hurts hospitals, physicians, clinics, and other medical providers in your community. Unpaid fees harm the efficiency of hospitals and clinics, and they may even affect the quality of service that can be provided.

With a mandated international student insurance policy, everyone has the same coverage, which means students don’t have nearly as much responsibility for their medical fees, leading to fewer (and lower) out-of-pocket costs. That means medical providers are compensated for their services in a timely way, and service can continue as efficiently as ever.

Help Your Recruitment

Offering a mandated international student insurance policy also benefits schools: It can help your recruitment efforts. International students are more likely to consider an institution that offers them a policy; that means they don’t need to go shopping in a market they don’t understand, and they can get back to the important things—like studying.

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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