Tips for Choosing Health Insurance for International Students in U.S.


Jonathan Perez | Jul 28, 2023 Insurance

The United States is known for having the highest health care costs and no national health insurance plans. Which combined, can lead to large medical bills for even the simplest treatments. If you are looking to minimize your chances of falling into medical debt, choosing the right health insurance plan while in the United States is crucial. This article will give a brief introduction to your options and how to best go about your search.

Keep in mind that not every health insurance plan is designed the same. You’ll have to be mindful of a few things when making your selection:

1. Determine your budget: Consider your monthly expenses to determine the price best suited for you. Finding an affordable plan option is extremely important if you are on a tight budget.

2. Understand plan terminology: U.S. insurance terminology can be different from your home country, and you will need to understand the key terms to understand the what the plan covers.

  • Deductible - The dollar amount of covered expenses you are responsible for paying the physician before the insurance provides any benefits.
  • Copayment - The fee you pay for certain medical services.
  • Coinsurance - The percentage (%) of your bill that the insurance will cover.

3. Review full plan benefits: Make sure the plan provides coverage for your basic needs, such as emergency services, doctors’ visits, hospitalizations, laboratory exams, etc.

4. Understand the provider network: Make sure the plans have an accessible network that lets you find in-network doctors and hospitals in your area.

As international students, you should be aware of the options available when looking for health insurance. Coverage options are primarily divided into two categories: the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP), usually offered through your school, and private insurance.

Many universities usually offer one standard health plan amongst domestic and international students. These policies are very comprehensive in coverage but can have varying high costs - anywhere between $2,000 and $7,000. As an example, for the 2023-2024 academic year, the cost for SHIPs at Stanford University and University of Chicago is $7,128 and $4,917, respectively.

Although SHIP provides coverage for a wide range of services, you should see if the costs will become a financial burden. For many schools, paying for the SHIP policy can be optional.

As an alternative, there is an option that is more cost-affordable – private health insurance. The benefit of enrolling in a policy from an international student-specific company is that you can have the same comprehensive benefits but at a fraction of the cost of SHIP with flexible enrollment periods.

You can look into companies like United Healthcare, Cigna, and Aetna, who provide private plans for international users, as well as international student-specific companies, like ISO Student Health Insurance whose plans start at $31/month. Plans amongst these companies are designed and priced with international students in mind.

You should carefully determine the right combination of benefits and costs when selecting your plan. Since you are the most aware of your own specific medical and financial needs, your decisions here are of the highest importance.

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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 and connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, WeChat, WhatsApp, and LinkedIn.

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