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Do we really need health insurance? Here is an answer.
iStudentCity Plan | The Basics | Tips & Advice | Glossary | FAQs
In America, the costs of medical treatment are quite high while the government does not provide much support. To ensure that you will be able to support your medical expenses while studying in the U.S., universities usually require international students to purchase or present proof of health insurance before enrolling in the class.

This might be quite different from the situations in countries where many international students came from. In Germany and Taiwan, for example, the government pays for basic medical expenses and thus, its people don't have to worry about health insurance. On the other hand, in Thailand, medical expenses are more affordable due to certain government regulations and subsidies. Consequently, most Thais do not have any health insurance.

Since you probably never had health insurance before coming to the U.S., let's spend the next 5 minutes to learn the basics about health insurance.

Don't avoid it!
Health insurance helps you insure yourself against the risk of financial damage as a result of you or your family member getting sick or injured. Many international students, due to the fact that they are never required to have health insurance in their country, think that it's a waste of money to purchase an expensive policy. However, medical expenses in America are really high and they can catch you by surprise. You can be charged for a few thousand dollars for common sickness and injuries like broken leg or appendicitis operation. Moreover, hospitals and doctors may refuse to treat you if you don't have proof of insurance.

Carry the card!
Once you purchase the policy, the insurance company will issue you a card that you should carry with you all the time. In case you get sick, show this card to the nurse or staff at the physician's office. Remember, many hospitals and doctors will not accept a patient without proof of health insurance.

Know the answers!
The staff at the hospital will usually ask you whether you have visited there before. If not, you will be required to fill out a form, which contains questions regarding your insurance information, like the name of the insurance carrier and the policy number. Also, they may ask the following questions regarding your policy. So, make sure that you know the answers.

  • What is your deductible, (or co-pay)?
Generally, there are two types of deductible. The first one is a per-sickness deductible. You have to pay a fixed amount for each injury or sickness. This means if you go back to the doctor for the same sickness, you do not need to pay the deductible again. The second type is a per-policy deductible. Let's say you have a per-policy deductible of $100. If you visit the doctor in the beginning of the year and it costs you $150, you will have to pay $100 for deductible and the other $50 will be paid by your insurance provider. From then on, no matter how many times you visit a doctor, you are not required to pay for deductible again until the policy expires. Most insurance plans for international students are Traditional Major Medical plans. To be sure, please confirm with your provider. Click here for the definition of each type of health insurance.

Seeing the doctor
Some insurance policies may require your doctor to fill out a claim form about the nature of your sickness. So, don't forget to bring the form with you.

In addition, your policy may not cover certain medical treatments like MRI or Chiropractic treatment. Therefore, before getting the treatment from the doctor, make sure that it is covered by your plan or check with the insurance carrier first.

Paying the bill
After you are treated, you still have to pay for seeing the doctor. Depending on your policy, you may be required to either 1) pay only the deductible while the doctor will bill the rest of the charges to your insurance, or 2) pay the full amount and claim them back later from your insurance company.

If your policy allows you to pay only deductible, the insurance company, a few weeks later, will send you a form to be filled so that they can verify the treatment information with you. If you had to pay the full amount, make sure that you collect the receipts and write down all the related information about your sickness/injury so that you can fill out the claim form.

| Tips & Advices on Health Insurance
Know the difference!
What is the difference between Traditional Major Medical, HMO, and PPO? Click here.


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