Indian students cannot gain access to government healthcare programs.
By Chiranth Natraj
Every year thousands of Indian students travel to the US for education, training, research opportunities, work as an intern, and more. Unfortunately, students cannot gain access to government healthcare programs that are specifically meant for US citizens, residents, and lawfully permanent residents.
Hence, international students are left with two options- 1) they can buy plans either from school-sponsored groups or individual insurance programs, and 2) private insurance companies in the US. Sometimes, institutions have waiver options that allow students to buy an insurance plan from outside, but the plan must meet the institution’s insurance requirements.
Read: Is health insurance mandatory for international students in the US? (September 11, 2022)
To buy the best international student insurance plans for Indians coming to the US, here are a few things to consider.
- Visa status
If you are planning to study in the US, you need a visitor health insurance plan to cover your unforeseen medical expenses. Depending on your visa status, you must buy a plan that suits your requirements. For instance, Indian students on J1 visas must meet the insurance requirements laid down by the US Department of State. Whereas students on F1 or M1 visas do not have to worry about any State Department’s requirements because there are none. They must make sure that they meet their school’s insurance requirements or else they will not be allowed in classes.
- Coverage type
Each plan has a different level of coverage, which is clearly mentioned in the brochure or certificate. Some plans have limited benefits, while some have comprehensive benefits. Some may cover acute onset of a pre-existing offer limited pregnancy coverage. So, you need to pick a coverage type that suits your nature of stay and academic programs. Suppose you are on an M1 visa and will be in the US for 6 months to learn photography. You must choose a plan with a $100,000 policy maximum and a $500 deductible. You may not need any extra coverage. In case you are on a J1 visa and need to stay in the US for the next 2 years, you must select a plan that meets the State Department’s guidelines Again if you choose a plan with limited benefits, you must be financially and mentally prepared to pay many out-of-pocket medical expenses.
Read: What does Visitor insurance cover? (November 8, 2021)
- Coverage and add-ons
As already mentioned, coverage levels can be of several types. Typically, international student insurance plans cover medical expenses, hospital stays, emergency medical evacuation, repatriation, doctor’s visits, urgent care, COVID-19, mental health, maternity, pregnancy, childbirth, etc. In addition to this coverage, you can add optional coverage to your selected plan for which you need to pay an extra premium. Optional add-ons include extreme and adventure sports, enhanced AD&D (Accidental Death & Dismemberment) rider, evacuation plus rider, and chaperone/faculty leader replacement rider. Reading the brochure is recommended to know what your plan includes and does not include.
- Insurance terminology
When you are buying insurance for the first time, you will come across many unfamiliar terms like coinsurance, deductible, copay, policy maximum, in-network providers, pre-existing conditions, and more. These terms may appear confusing initially, but you can talk to your insurance provider to know more about them. You must be clear about how much deductible and copay you need to pay before your plan takes over. Also, how much your plan covers inside and outside the network, followed by what it includes and excludes.
Read: Why is visitor health insurance recommended for travel to USA? (October 7, 2021)
Each plan has different premiums, which depend on four main factors- student’s age, length of stay, policy maximum, and deductible. Besides, other factors can also affect premiums like add-ons, level of coverage, destinations, nature of stay and academic programs, and more. With a higher policy maximum, your premium increases, but with a higher deductible, your premium decreases. Similarly, if you are a 25-year-old student, you will be charged less than a 50-year-old student for the same plan.
Before buying an insurance plan, make sure that you have researched the policy well . It must meet the institution’s requirements or else you may not be allowed to enroll in the programs. Regarding the J1 visa, not maintaining the State’s insurance guidelines can lead to violation of your visa status and termination of your program. Therefore, you need to be very particular about your plan’s choice.
Read: Do International Students Need U.S. Health Insurance? (December 22, 2020)
Besides, buying a plan from a reputable US insurance provider is always recommended to Indian students. A standard insurance plan is designed to cover you in your home country. It may offer zero to limited coverage in the US, further complicating things. Paying out-of-pocket can be challenging as medical costs are extremely high in the US. Consider the points told above and buy a plan that can keep you unharmed in a foreign land while focusing on your academic dreams and achievements.
(Chiranth Nataraj is the founder of Visitor Guard. He has more than two decades worth of experience in developing insurance and technology solutions.)