Study Abroad Health Insurance: What and how to avail
Study Abroad Health Insurance: Getting proper insurance cover is a major concern for any student who is considering going abroad for further studies. In fact, most universities and schools won’t admit you if you don’t have proper health care insurance. The reason why there is so much fuss over getting health insurance cover is to ensure you don’t end up in a situation where you can't afford your medical bills –remember medical treatment and services are much costlier in Europe or in the USA, than it is in India. One can have health issues especially when living in an alien environment where food habits and weather conditions are vastly different from what we are accustomed to. Then one can meet with an accident. Therefore, one can't rule out the importance of having a study abroad health insurance cover.
Study abroad health insurance policies are more or less same across most countries in the world in that they are compulsory for getting admission. But while some universities have their own preferred study abroad insurance plans, others may be more accommodating and allow students to purchase the policy of their choice, provided it offers the minimum coverage as prescribed by the country’s guidelines for international students.
Let’s us take a few examples and dig dipper into what study abroad health insurance policies are available for students and how they can be availed in different countries.
When it comes to higher studies, the United States has nothing short of a monopoly. With the maximum number of universities in the list of top universities in the world and the largest population of international students -approaching eight lakhs at last count- there is a long queue of aspiring students who are waiting for their chance to get admission at a US university. Those lucky few whose American dream has come true should also take some time and figure out the health insurance they would need for admission. After all, American universities take the health of students very seriously and mandate that students purchase study abroad health insurance policies for the duration of their studies.
One thing that is unique about the USA is there is no one singular insurance plan that is common to all universities. Instead most universities have their own preferred policies like Harvard has Harvard University Student Health Program (HUSHP), Stanford University --Cardinal Care insurance plan, and The University of Chicago --University Student Health Insurance Plan (U-SHIP). Nevertheless, while the names and service providers may be different, they serve one common objective: to secure the safety and well-being of the student.
A normal study abroad health insurance covers routine and non-emergency medical care, and costs around $1,144 per quarter.
In case of Harvard, the health fee is added at the time of enrollment and covers a number of core and other services like primary care/internal medicine, counseling and mental health, and alcohol & drug related services. Some specialty services are also included –obstetrics & gynecology, surgery and podiatry.
Under certain circumstances, international students are allowed to waive the university recommended study abroad health insurance plans, but they will have to provide adequate proof that they have alternative health policies that provide comparative protection and that the service provider is recognized by the university.
One of the top international destinations in the world, with nearly two and half lakh students, Australia has its own stringent study abroad health insurance policies. International students aren’t covered by the country’s healthcare system (Medicare), and instead have to purchase the Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC). The plan covers hospital visits, basic treatment, ambulance cover and limited medicines. Relatives accompanying the student also need to take this cover. Under the OSHC, students can either buy plans that offer the compulsory minimum coverage or go for more comprehensive plans that offer more comprehensive coverage, if they are ready to fork out additional bucks.
The health cover can be purchased from any of the following providers:
Australian Health Management
Allianz Global Assistance (subcontracted by Lysaght Peoplecare)
Typically the costs of taking out an OSHC depend on multiple factors. You can refer the following chart for a better idea.
Here is a cost sample from Allianz Global Assistance:
OSHC 2015 price selection by month (Essential coverage effective 1 January, 2015)
The university can facilitate the purchase of OSHC or you can personally buy it online from OSHC’s insurer’s website.
In addition to the mandatory OSHC, students are allowed to have any private study abroad health insurance of their choice if they feel like having additional insurance. Then again, how much coverage these policies offer, vary from policy to policy, insurer to insurer, and how much you are willing to shell out.
Home to some of the oldest universities in the world which revolutionized the world, the United Kingdom is next only to the United States when it comes to the number of international students visiting its shores and the number of universities dotting the list of top hundred universities in the world. Most universities in the UK, along with their very high academic standards, also put a lot of emphasis on the health of the student.
The public health care system of the UK, the National Health Services (NHS), is designed for local students and only offers emergency services for free to international students. To avail medical treatment and the costs of repatriation extended by NHS, students have to pay additional surcharge of Â£150 per student, per year of the visa, apart from the Â£75 that should be paid for part years of less than six months. These rules are in accordance with the Immigrant Act 2014.
Also, upon arriving in the UK, students need to get registered with a General Practitioner (GP) as part of study abroad health insurance policy.
Also since the NHS doesn’t offer comprehensive coverage, it is advisable to go for additional coverage in the form of private health covers. It will help you cover expenses relating to:
Loss of fees, in the likelihood of you being unable to complete your course
Expenses which are not covered by NHS
Cost of travelling home to visit a relative who has taken ill
Cost of relatives visiting you in case you fall ill
Visiting your home country for treatment
International students who want to get admission at a university in Canada have to purchase basic and in some cases extended insurance policies for the duration of their study. So, as you can see the study abroad health insurance policies cutting across countries are basically similar with minor differences here and there. And like their European and Australian counterparts, the insurance cover is meant to balance out the very high medical costs in the country. Also it is not just you who needs to be ensured, as even your relatives have to be insured if they intend to visit or accompany you.
Most universities in Canada have their preferred study abroad insurance plans: University of Toronto has University Health Insurance Plan (UHIP), The University of British Columbia has Medical Services Plan (MSP), and McGill University has International Health Insurance (IHI). It is however not binding on the student to buy any of them as they are allowed to buy alternative study abroad health insurance plans provided they offer similar coverage.
As for UHIP, new and returning degree earning students are automatically registered to UHIP for a period extending up to twelve months of the current academic year (from September 1st to August 31st). In case of exchange students, UHIP provides insurance for the period students are attending the university.
The yearly premium of UHIP is $684.00, and has to be paid along with the tuition fees. This means that any delay in paying college fees will ultimately result in deferment of UHIP payment as well.
2014 – 2015 UHIP Sample Premium Rates
Number of Months of Coverage
Dental care is normally not included under the regular insurance plans and students have to go for higher plans if they want dental insurance as well. McGill University is one of the few universities that offers dental insurance as part of the university study abroad health insurance plan, but students can opt out if they don’t wish to pay the additional charges.
Unlike other countries, the universities of New Zealand have collaboratively designed the Studentsafe-University study abroad health insurance plan for the benefit of international students. A Group Insurance Plan, it is valid for the entire duration of study and understandably the preferred insurance plan among the universities.
The annual premiums of Studentsafe-University study abroad health insurance looks like this:
2014 Annual Premiums
2015 Annual Premiums
NZ$585 per year
NZ$590 per year
Couple (student + 1)
NZ$1,170 per year
NZ$1,180 per year
Family (student + 2 or more)
NZ$1,460 per year
NZ$1,475 per year
Study Abroad (one semester)
To take Studentsafe-University insurance plan, students don’t have to fill a separate application form as the premium will be automatically updated to the statement of fees. Once the fee is paid, it will even cover travel to New Zealand as well.
Student safe emergency assistance: Policy holders can call at 0800 486 004 to get in touch with Studentsafe in New Zealand. If there is an emergency during a stopover or while travelling outside New Zealand, the number is +64 9 486 6868. Call charges accrued in such situations will be borne by the insurance company.
While Studentsafe-University is the preferred study abroad health insurance plan, students can also go for other policies with comparable coverage including:
Among the other insurance policies that students can purchase include:
Uni-Care NZ Student Plan
Southern Cross Student Max
Orbit Protect Prime
While buying an alternative study abroad health insurance plan, you need to ensure that it meets the guidelines for the Code of Practice.
Dental Care: Most insurance policies in New Zealand don’t cover dental care, so either you have to pay for the bills or go for higher-level policies.
Universities in Germany demand that students purchase sufficient health insurance cover before they can enroll at a program, though some of them may be willing to give you some time –may be until the start of your studies to produce the proof. Also, since the registration process is directly linked to your producing proof of proper health cover, non-compliance may force the university to put your registration on hold.
Statutory Health Insurance Plan: International students who aren’t covered under their local health insurance in their home countries are required to take insurance cover in Germany. To help students in this regard, there are statutory health insurers in Germany which offer discounted rates –as mandated by the Government – for the insurance.
You can approach any statutory health insurer in Germany for study abroad health insurance. The going membership fee is around 80 euros a month and includes benefits like health and nursing insurance. The certificate issued by the insurer for the existing insurance cover must be submitted at the time of enrollment to the university.
If you are over 30 or have been studying in Germany for more than 14 semesters, you can still maintain the country’s statutory insurance, but the fee will be higher. In case of students, who are older than 29 at the time of starting their course, the statutory health insurance doesn’t apply and they have to obtain private insurance.
Private Health Insurance Plan
If you are comfortable with the idea of private insurance and purchased one in your home country, you have to first check whether it is also valid in Germany. Universities demand that you obtain written confirmation from your insurance provider (either in English or German) stating that:
You have bought a health insurance
It is valid in Germany
It meets the minimum insurance limits (minimum insured amount â¬100,000) and health coverage
You have to then take the confirmation to a public insurer in Germany who will then judge whether you are eligible for exemption from compulsory insurance needed for enrollment. Also, as may be the case with private insurance, you have to bear the initial cost of treatment and later file a reimbursement claim with your health insurance company in your home country. If a situation arises wherein your insurer is only obliged to reimburse costs according to treatment rates in your native country, the discrepancy has to be fully borne by you.
Dealing with emergencies: Notwithstanding whether you have insurance or not, emergency services are free for students of all nationality in Germany. The toll free number to avail emergency services is 112.
The insurance policies adopted by these countries give you an overall idea about what makes up study abroad health insurance policies and how much you have to fork out to take a policy. Also, as you can see you don’t necessarily have to go out looking for the best study abroad health insurance policy suited to you, as most universities can do a better job than you –as can be seen in the case of universities in New Zealand which have a carefully crafted insurance plan. The icing on the cake, though, is you still have at most times the liberty to choose your own plan.
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