One of the things that you MUST have before you travel abroad to study is international student insurance. No matter which country you are going to study abroad insurance is very important for your own safety.
There are two types of insurance that you should consider when you go to study abroad. These are medical/health insurance and travel insurance.
health/medical insurance is the insurance that will cover either all or part of your incurring medical expenses whenever you go to see a doctor or face a medical insurance. International travel insurance, on the other hand, is insurance that covers medical expenses, cancelled or missed trips, lost luggage, and other losses incurred when you’re travelling internationally.
Finding the right international insurance is not a walk in the park. There’s just too much legal jargon that you’re expected to understand and half the time you just can’t tell what exactly you’re reading right?
Don’t you just wish someone would explain it to you in the simplest terms possible?! Well, today is your lucky day because that’s exactly what I plan to do.
This post gives you tips for a good student insurance cover, without leaving you with a headache or more confused than you were before. Keep reading!
Before we get to the tips, let’s take a look at a few good reasons why you must get student insurance:
International students need to get insurance because most countries such as the US offer very limited if any, government-funded healthcare. The cost of healthcare in many countries is pretty high and it does help to have insurance.
Your student insurance will pay for any medical expenses that you may have saving you lots of money. This means you don’t have to spend your pocket money to see a doctor.
When you have an insurance plan you won’t have to spend so much money on out of pocket expenses as the plan will pay the bulk of your expenses should it be medical expenses or travel related payables.
In case of an emergency, costs can add up pretty fast and you may find yourself having to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars if you don’t have insurance. This is money that you probably don’t have on you and it may hinder you from getting the care that you need.
Another one of the advantages of having student health insurance is that sometimes doctors charge uninsured patients way higher than they do for the insured because health insurance providers negotiate huge discounts for their patients.
Because health insurance companies pay the bulk of or even the entire bill, you will get to enjoy these discounts allowing you to use your insurance plan more.
Having insurance will save you from getting financially crippled by medical bills should you get seriously ill or injured during your study abroad period.
Top International Student Insurance Myths
There are a few myths that might convince you not to get student insurance. Don’t let these myths fool you.
There’s no way to tell if you will get sick or not. You may not have had a medical emergency yet but this does not mean that you will not have one in future.
It’s always better to be prepared than to be caught unaware because illnesses and accidents can happen at any time. It’s not a good idea to leave your health up to chance.
Be aware that insurance is meant to help you access medical attention as soon as possible and not have to pay a lot of money for it. Some hospitals will not admit or even attend to you without insurance or pay a cash deposit.
Insurance is supposed to protect you against future unforeseen events such as sickness, loss of luggage during international student travel, cancelled flights etc.
That said, it’s impossible to buy insurance to cover an event that has just happened you have to buy it before you need it.
The cost of insurance, referred to as premiums, received from different people are pooled together and are later used by insurance providers to pay the medical bills referred to as claims for those insured under the plan.
Your premium will not go up because you have received a claim. If an insurance company decides to increase premiums for a certain insurance plan, you will only be charged more when renewing your plan and not during the plan period.
Don’t refuse to use your insurance plan for fear of being charged more. It will be a waste of your money if you get an insurance plan and not use it even you are in need of it.
While having health insurance will protect you against the unexpected not everything will always be paid for by your insurance provider. If for example your plan does not cover sports injuries and you get injured while playing football, the insurance provider will not pay your medical bills for this kind of injury.
Even if you have all these inclusion, sometimes you may have to cover some out of pocket insurance expenses such as a copay fee which is a small fee ($25 or less) charged for a doctor’s appointment.
Make sure you ask the insurance providers that you’re sampling what their out of pocket expenses are so that you’re fully aware of buying a plan.
No two insurance providers are the same. There are also very many international student plans available, each with different prices and benefits suitable for different needs.
You may definitely want to keep your costs down so that you can fully enjoy cheap study abroad and that’s understandable but when buying insurance, your main goal should be to find a plan that covers all your medical and travel needs abroad.
Some important must have medical insurance inclusions include emergency medical evacuation and repatriation, mental health sports and maternity.
Also, consider the duration of your stay abroad when choosing your insurance plan. If you’ll be staying for an extended period long-term insurance is best while short-term is recommended for short courses.
Now let’s get down to what are some different ways to obtain medical insurance and what you need to do to find the best student insurance that will take care of your needs.
While it may make sense to wait until your classes start to get an insurance cover, it’s important that you start shopping for one as early as possible.
Most students push off getting insurance until it’s too late because in most cases your institution won’t require you to have insurance before admitting you. This is no excuse to delay your insurance until last minute.
Because there are just so many things to consider when buying study abroad insurance and many providers to compare, it’s important that you start looking for one as soon as you get your letter of admission.
The sooner you start shopping the more time you will have to educate yourself on what makes a good student insurance and how to determine a quality insurance provider.
Before you start shopping for insurance, identify what you want to be covered by the plan. This will mainly be determined by your extracurricular activities.
If you’re into sports then you want sports added to your health cover. If you’re not into any high-risk activities, then a simple plan that covers mostly for doctor visits and hospitalizations in case of an illness will do.
Some of the common benefits of international student insurance plans that will help you determine what you should include in your plan:
- Doctor visits
- Emergency medical evacuation and repatriation
- Mental health
- Organized sports
- Pre-existing conditions
Many of the international student plans will normally offer comprehensive coverage suitable for students studying abroad.
Many places in the world including the United States have set health and travel insurance requirements that you must meet before you’re allowed to enter the country, depending on your visa.
It’s important that you go through your visa requirements to make sure that the student insurance that you settle for meets the requirements set by your host country. So, for instance, you will be living as an international student in Canada find out what the visa requirements for Canada are.
You could send these requirements to insurance providers while making inquiries about available plans.
Because insurance plans are not all equal, most institutions have developed an insurance waiver form that lists the requirements that an international student’s plan must have in order for students to enjoy maximum insurance benefits.
Inquire from your school if they have an insurance waiver form and use it as you try to find the best insurance plan for you. Make sure you find an insurance plan that will adhere to these requirements because many schools don’t make exceptions to these requirements.
The student insurance plan is obviously not for everyone and there are some criteria that you need to meet in order to qualify for study abroad insurance.
International students need a valid student visa and a valid institution acceptance letter indicating the number of hours you will attend school each week in order to qualify for student insurance.
Make sure you have these documents ready before you start looking for an insurance plan to make the application simple and quick once you find a suitable insurance provider.
The best scenario is to use the same insurance plan throughout your study period so it’s important that you exactly what benefits that cover will offer you. This will eliminate the need for getting one benefit from one provider and then having to find another provider to offer you another benefit.
So be very sure of the benefits offered and confirmed that you’re comfortable and fully covered throughout your study period or at least for a full year. You certainly don’t want to have to look for another provider a few months down the line.
Your student insurance plan won’t cover everything for you just as with all other insurance plans. It’s common practice for providers to include exclusions in your student health insurance.
They will also include hidden limits as well as waiting periods for some of your benefits such as maternity and chronic diseases. It’s therefore, important to check out what the exclusions are before you pay for insurance.
In cases where a condition is part of your exclusions, you will have to pay out of pocket to get treated for such conditions. Here are common student insurance exclusions to watch out for:
- Congenital disorders
- Preventative care
- Self-inflicted injuries
Life is very unpredictable and you may find yourself cutting your study abroad short for various reasons. There could be an emergency back home, your visa could be denied or you find a better studying opportunity back home.
Whatever the reason, you may find yourself in a position where you no longer need your insurance plan. So what happens next?
Be sure to read the cancellation policy to know whether in the event you have to cancel your insurance you are eligible to receive a refund and stop future payments. Also, find out if there any fees that you will be charged for cancelling your insurance after the effective date.
Always find out what other people’s experience with international student insurance companies has been like with every insurance company that your thinking of going with. People’s feedback is great in giving you an idea of the kind of company you will deal with.
You will get to see if they are problematic when it comes to paying claims, if they have good customer service and if generally, they have the better benefits. Ideally, you want to pick a company that has more positive reviews than negative ones and also one that has a high rating.
Even though different companies charge different premiums, your student insurance should generally be affordable because students are young and in general good health thus at lower risk of having health issues.
Do compare prices of different companies and always go for the company that offers the best price and the lowest out of pocket charges because paying high premiums doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re getting the best.
Always ask the insurance company to explain out of pocket and other expenses not included in your cover in detail so that you understand how much you will spend over and above your premiums.
Most student insurance plans are tailored to last up to 4 years. But make sure that you confirm this with the insurance company as different countries may have different rules. For instance, though you may get up to 5 years if you’re studying in the US, you may have to renew your insurance annually if you’re going to study abroad in Europe.
You may also be going for a short exchange program or your study program is less than a year long. This then means that you don’t need a long-term insurance cover.
You can actually find a student travel insurance that offers medical benefits such as emergency medical evacuation on top of the usual travel health benefits.
Now that you know what should be covered in health insurance and travel insurance and what to look out for when shopping for the best international student insurance you should be able to find a suitable plan with minimal struggle. All the best!