Why All International Students Should Maintain Health Insurance in the U.S.


Ed Zaleck | Mar 25, 2022 Insurance

One of the most confusing parts about coming to the U.S. for foreign visitors is determining exactly how health insurance works. Though you may not worry much about being insured in your home country, it is something you need to ensure you account for during your visit abroad.

We understand many of those who come to the U.S. will be looking to purchase insurance due to school/visa requirements, but it’s still imperative to have insurance even if you don’t have any requirements. We list the primary reasons to have get insured in the U.S. below.

High healthcare costs

Healthcare in the U.S. is privatized and complicated, which often creates the need for providers to charge higher rates for medical services. This is in stark contrast to universal healthcare systems in other countries, where the government has more power and can often regulate the rates

Needing to get medical services for even the most basic things in the U.S. can create a huge financial burden. For example, treatment for a broken leg can cost up to $7,500 and a three-day hospital stay can cost up to $30,000 for the uninsured (source: healthcare.gov). Even a regular doctors visit can cost you up to $600 without insurance.

Insurance is there to help lower these costs for you by offering access to networks of medical providers that will offer discounted rates and a set percentage (coinsurance) that will be paid towards your bills, typically after you pay a deductible or copay.

It may seem unnecessary to have an insurance if you’re generally healthy and don’t need to see a doctor often, but these minor expenses aren’t what you need to be wary of. Accidents can happen at any time and it’s always better to make sure you’re protected from an unnecessary financial burden if something unfortunate happens.

School/visa requirements

Colleges in the U.S. are always looking for ways to keep their students safe. With this, most schools set up an exclusive plan to cover students through an insurance company and make it mandatory to enroll in it or find comparable coverage to waive out of it.

Students should review the requirements for insurance at their school as it may be your responsibility to purchase on your own. Schools can put a hold on your student account if you don’t have sufficient coverage, which may exclude you from registering from classes or using school resources.

In addition, it is mandatory for J1 visa holders and their J2 dependents to have coverage that meets the U.S. Department of State requirements. Most other visas, including F1-OPT and H1B, are not required to have insurance but may be offered coverage through their employer or program.

Coverage is less for visitors

Much like healthcare costs, health insurance in the U.S. can be expensive as well. One perk of purchasing insurance as a foreign visitor is that you will not be required to purchase an ACA-Compliant plan (your school/program may require it, but not the government). This allows you to purchase plans that provide only essential coverage for only injuries/sicknesses.

ACA-Compliant plans require coverage for wellness and preventative care measures and pre-existing conditions, which will create higher premium rates. For example, ISO’s basic international student insurance plans start at $31 a month while the average ACA plan can cost around $456 a month.

In addition, international students cannot opt for low-cost government based plans but there are plenty of private insurance options available for international visitors (including ISO) so you should take full advantage of this and find something that works best for you. You will not use it every day but insurance is definitely something you do not want to find yourself without.

ISO Student Health Insurance is the leader in health insurance options for international students and other visa statuses. 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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