Health Checklist for International Students Before Arriving in U.S.

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Ed Zaleck | May 25, 2022 Insurance

If you keep up with our blog posts, one of the constant things we try to shed light on is that health care costs in the U.S. are significantly higher than what you are used to in your home country. Since many students are not aware of this reality prior to coming to the U.S., they might first realize when they receive a bill for hundreds of dollars for services that cost loose change in their home country.

The best way to stay protected against these unexpected expenses is to purchase an insurance plan in the US. However, even with insurance, you may still wind up having to pay more than expected for injury/sickness related treatment. Also, many international student insurance plans do not cover for wellness/preventive care measures, such as health check ups or basic dental/vision services.

To make the best of this situation, you should be proactive about your health prior to leaving for the U.S. Since these services more affordable in your home country, you can save yourself money and make sure you’re in the best state of health prior to arriving abroad.

Go through the list below for more on what you should look to have done prior to leaving for the U.S.:

1. General health check-up and immunization

While in your home country, it’s always recommended to see your family/primary care doctor for a regular health checkup before leaving. This stands even if you do not have a recurring injury/sickness.

This way you can get confirmation of what state your health is in and if there are any other types of screening/testing you should get prior to leaving the U.S. If you have a clean bill of health, then you can go abroad with less worries about having to seek medical attention!

It’s also recommended to get this check-up so you can get your most up-to-date immunization record and see if you would need to get an immunization to be on schedule. Some schools in the U.S. require you to be up to date for certain immunizations so it’s best to have everything settled prior to leaving.

2. Treatment for existing injuries/sicknesses

In a similar vein to the above, you should definitely see a doctor in your home country prior to leaving if you are receiving continuous treatment for an injury/sickness. During this time, it will be best to ask if there are any large procedures or treatment measures that you should have done in the foreseeable future and try to schedule them in your home country.

If you are scheduled for something large like a surgery, you should make sure to have it done before leaving, as it will most likely be more affordable in your home country than in the U.S. even if you have insurance. Plus, it will allow you to avoid the situation where you have a long recovery period and it delays your studies in the U.S.

Please note that most international student plans have waiting periods for pre-existing conditions so it’s also best to see if your doctor has any recommendations for planning around this if you require continuous treatment.

3. Visit dentist + eye doctor

Many international student plans do not provide dental and vision coverage, as these are treated as separate entities from general health coverage in the U.S. With this, it’s best to visit your dentist and eye doctor, especially if you wear glasses or contacts.

While at the dentist, you can get a regular check-up or cleaning and see if the dentist recommends any treatments like tooth fillings or root canals. If they do, it’s best to get them done prior to leaving.

If you wear contacts, we recommend getting an eye check up to get an update on your prescription or at the very least, put in an order for new pairs of contacts under your existing prescription. It may also be worth it to try to look into purchasing a back-up glasses if you wear them consistently just to be safe.

4. Medication fills

If you have any existing prescriptions, you can visit a pharmacy and see if you can get additional fills of your prescription ahead of schedule. If not, visit your doctor who has written the prescription and see if they’ll write you a prescription for additional fills of your medication. Make sure to pick it up at a pharmacy and keep the doctors note for the prescription on you when you travel, as you may need it to bring the medication into the country.

This is essential as U.S. pharmacies will not fill if you have a foreign prescription, so you would need to visit a U.S. doctor to write you own, which will obviously cost more.

If you do need to fill a prescription in the U.S., here’s some tips you can follow to do so.


Though we suggest taking these precautions before you arrive for studies, we understand that there may be medical services you need to have done during your time abroad. To stayed covered for these, you can enroll in one of ISO's affordable insurance plans. Our plans offer comprehensive coverage for all U.S. visa holders. Find a plan that works for you here.

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About ISO Student Health Insurance

Founded in 1958, ISO prides itself on being the leader in providing international students with affordable insurance plans. Administered by former and current international students, we are able to assist our member with multilingual customer service in Chinese, Hindi, Spanish, and more. ISO serves over 3,200 schools/colleges and more than 150,000 insured students every year.

For more information, please visit www.isoa.org and connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, WeChat, WhatsApp, and LinkedIn.

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