What Are Your Health Insurance Options When Studying Abroad?

Erin CaswellErin Caswell | June 9, 2017

Congratulations if you are one of the nearly 300,000 US students who have the opportunity to travel abroad to study this year. The experience should create a lifetime of memories. The number of American students who are heading overseas for study abroad opportunities has been growing, and with it, the number of students who have questions about health insurance when they study in other countries has also grown.

The insurance market can be a confusing one: There are plenty of options for students who are studying abroad. However, there’s not much guidance on what you really need when you opt to study abroad. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your options, don’t fret: Finding what you need is easier than you think.

Carry No Insurance? That’s Not An Option

First and foremost, put the thought of simply not getting health insurance out of your head. Some students think they can save money or avoid the frustration of shopping for insurance by not buying a policy. “I’ll be really careful while I’m there…”

No one plans on getting sick or being in an auto accident when they study abroad. The experience of studying abroad usually involves extensive sightseeing, experiencing nightlife activities, trying new cuisines, etc. But unforeseen things can happen where international student health insurance can be a huge benefit.

A School-Mandated Policy

Some schools, fortunately, require students have health insurance before they can join a study abroad program. In most cases, these schools will mandate a plan that students can join. This means the school administers the plan and the policy, which can eliminate the frustration of shopping for insurance.

Of course, students can often still opt to select their own insurance, which may be a good idea, depending on the school program. Some school programs may offer only the most basic or even incomplete coverage, while others will offer insurance that is too comprehensive—and has a high price tag as a result. LewerMark recommends a policy cover emergency medical evacuation services and repatriation services, which most domestic policies do not cover. Be sure to check with the school about its minimum requirements for health insurance policies.

Your Domestic Provider

If you already have health insurance at home, check with your provider. There’s a chance you may already have some coverage under your existing policy, or you may be able to extend your coverage for a minimal fee. Be sure to check that the policy meets or exceeds your school program’s basic requirements.

Basic Medical Insurance

If you’re taking out a new policy, either with an existing provider or a new one, you’ll still have to make decisions about the coverage you purchase. It’s a good idea to purchase at least basic medical insurance at the very minimum.

In general, you should look for a policy that offers you at least $100,000 in medical coverage for illness or accident. The policy you select should also include 24-hour emergency assistance at no additional cost. These are the bare minimums you should select; if you know you’re prone to illness or tend to be accident-prone, purchasing more coverage is advisable.

Enhanced Insurance

You can most certainly purchase more extensive coverage than what’s outlined as “basic” medical insurance. Some policies offer a zero deductible, which means you don’t need to pay anything out of pocket. Other policies can insure you for up to $1 million in coverage; that might seem excessive, but medical bills can rack up quite quickly, and the last thing you want while you’re studying abroad is to worry about going into debt over an accident.

Insurance policies can also provide additional coverage for lost or stolen property, trip cancelation or delay. Some policies may even cover lost tuition, should you need to cut your study program short.

How to Evaluate International Student Health Insurance Options

Erin Caswell

Erin is Director of LewerMark Student Insurance division. Erin has a degree in Education and worked as an instructor before joining LewerMark more than six years ago. She is licensed in Life & Health insurance.

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