Health Insurance for International Students in USA

Dr Mohammad Shafiq

Health Insurance for International Students in USA

Health Insurance for International Students in USA

Health insurance works as a backup payment for your medical expenses. Of course, you have to pay a monthly premium payment. A health insurance for international students in USA covers all medical costs, like unexpected accidents, injuries, or damages, and saves them from severe financial risk.

According to, around 92.1% of people, or 304.0 million people, will have health insurance in 2022. In the USA, international students make up 5.6% of the total U.S. student population. Around 15.64 million students have health insurance out of 17 million.

Understanding Health Insurance in the USA

The U.S. healthcare system is a combination of private and public care to provide service for more than 330 million people. The country has several public health insurance companies, such as Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children's Health Insurance Program.

  • Medicare:  U.S. residents whose age is 65 or above and certain disabled individuals are eligible to get Medicare services, such as doctor's services, outpatient care, home health care, various preventive services, etc.
  • Medicaid: USA citizens and legally living particular qualified non-citizens are entitled to get Medicaid service. They provide a wide range of services, such as non-emergency medical transportation, community-based services, physical therapy, occupational therapy, case management, prescription drugs, etc.
  • Children's Health Insurance Program: Children aged up to 18 years and pregnant women are eligible to get CHIP services. It provides various services, including emergency services, prescriptions, doctor visits, routine check-ups, Laboratory and X-ray services, Dental and vision care, and Inpatient and outpatient hospital care.

Basic Terms and Concept

  • Premium: A premium is the amount you need to pay monthly for health insurance. The average yearly international student health insurance cost can be anywhere from $500 to $1000. Hence, students must pay a $42 to $83 monthly premium. 
  • Deductible: You must pay a certain amount before the insurer starts sharing the medical expenses. For instance, a $800 deductible means the health insurance company will start sharing medical costs once you have finished paying $800.
  • Out-of-pocket maximum: The maximum amount of money you will pay in a calendar year. Once you cross the limit, the insurer will spend the rest of the medical expenses.
  • Co-pay: Co-pay is the fixed percentage of payment the insured will share with an insurer for a specific medical service or medication.

Importance of Health Insurance in the U.S. Context

Health insurance can be beneficial for individuals and families to access various health services, prevent diseases, and protect individuals from unexpected, high medical costs. It is also associated with better health outcomes, reduced death rates, and increased productivity. Besides, tobacco users will be motivated to quit their tobacco consumption as it leads to double or triple premium payments.

Health Insurance Requirements for International Students

Health Insurance Requirements for International Students

Federal Regulations on Health Insurance for International Students

According to the USA State Department, international students have no particular insurance requirements. However, it is important to maintain adequate health insurance while studying in the USA.   

Institutional Requirements: University-Specific Health Insurance Plans

Most universities have specific health insurance plans for international students to cover their medical needs and expenses. It helps them meet unexpected medical costs in case of an emergency. The best part is that university-specific health insurance plans have a low cost compared to outside private insurance.

Impact of Visa Type on Insurance Requirements

  • J-1 and J-2 visa: International students with J-1 or J-2 visas must have a specific health insurance plan based on the U.S. Department of State's guidelines to cover their medical needs and expenses during their J-1 program. It will cover essential medical services, such as emergency room visits, doctor visits, hospitalization, laboratory tests, prescription medications, mental health services, etc., to support overall well-being.
  • F-1 Visa: Under F-1 visa, international students do not need any health insurance to get an F-1 visa. However, before enrolling into a particular university, you must have university-specific or private-based health insurance to cover your medical expenses during the course duration.
  • M-1 Visa: International students with M-1 visas don't require health insurance as per the visa rules. However, when they enroll in vocational studies, their particular university or college requires them to have adequate insurance coverage during the course duration.

Options for Health Insurance for International Students

Options for Health Insurance for International Students

University/College Health Insurance Plans

There are a lot of university or college health insurance plans in the USA. Their cost ranges from $1500 to $2500 per year. It will vary depending on the additional features and extras. International students will get more advantages if they choose a plan before coming to the USA. It enables you to use your healthcare information in your visa application. However, high-benefit plans are a bit expensive as they are ACA-compliant.

Private Health Insurance Plans

A good number of private health insurance plans are available in the USA. If you want more tailored coverage and flexibility, private health insurance plans are an excellent choice. Besides, you can choose a particular hospital and doctor based on your preference. International students will also enjoy tax benefits and mental health coverage, as well as specialized drugs and treatments. You will have faster access to medical services, ensuring less waiting time.

International Health Insurance in the USA

International students can use their European Health Insurance Card in the European Union (E.U.), Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. However, international students can use them only in public healthcare providers.

They are not eligible for use by private healthcare providers. Besides, some health insurance plans may work in the USA if the company is multinational and has an office there. Of course, the rules and regulations must comply with the U.S. healthcare policy. Also, you can't use an EHIC card if you live in the USA for less than six months.

Government-Provided Plans

The government healthcare system of the USA is cost-effective. However, there is limited access to such services, especially for international students, as they are typically not eligible for most programs. It is best to choose a reliable healthcare program before studying in the USA.

Also Read:

Key Considerations when Choosing a Health Insurance Plan

Cost of Premiums, Deductibles, Copayments, and Coinsurance

It is crucial to consider the cost of premiums, deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance to ensure affordability and understanding of out-of-pocket expenses for comprehensive coverage.


Another mandatory point that should not be overlooked is the coverage area. You must consider what is included in the plant and what is not. Check and review each plan to find the best option based on your health needs, budget, and preferences. It will provide comprehensive benefits and minimize potential gaps in medical services.

Access to Doctors, Specialists, and Hospitals

International students must consider the hospitals, doctors, and specialists they will have access to from the specific health insurance plan. It will ensure students get their preferred healthcare providers and facilities, enhancing the overall effectiveness of the coverage.

Possibility of Coverage In Case Of Travel or Visit to Home Country

Most U.S. health insurance is only eligible for U.S. residents. It will cover only your particular state or some certain states. A few health insurance companies may provide coverage if you travel or visit your home country. It is only applicable to emergencies. Read their terms, rules, and regulations to have a clear overview of their services.

Review of Policy for Pre-Existing Condition Exclusions

Previewing the policy of pre-existing condition exclusions is necessary to understand limitations on coverage for existing health issues, prevent surprises, and ensure comprehensive protection.

Steps to Obtaining Health Insurance as an International Student

Steps to Obtaining Health Insurance as an International Student

Understanding Insurance Needs and Budget

The first important step for obtaining health insurance as an international student is understanding your insurance needs and budget. It should align with your medical requirements while you remain financially manageable. You should not extremely struggle to pay the premium.

Researching and Comparing Options

The next step is researching and comparing all potential health insurance options to identify the most suitable coverage. You don't want to overlook important attributes like personal health needs, budget constraints, network preferences, and extra benefits during the comparison. This will help you make the most out of it.

The Application Process and Necessary Documentation

  • Many U.S. colleges and universities cover health insurance for international students. Before choosing any private-based health insurance plan, check your particular college or university.
  • Also, check if buying a health insurance plan from an educational institution is mandatory. The insurance premium will be included in the tuition fees.
  • If their health insurance plans offer an optional waiver, carefully review all the plans to determine whether any suits your medical needs and budget.
  • If it doesn't fit, apply for a waiver and choose a private health insurance plan.

The following are the common documents an international USA student will need to apply for health insurance in the USA:

  • Passport
  • Visa Information
  • University Enrollment Confirmation
  • I-20 Form
  • Social Security Number (if applicable)
  • Medical Records
  • Proof of Residence

Understanding the Plan Once It's Chosen: How to Use the Insurance

Once you choose a plan, understand how it works to maximize its benefits, avoid surprises, and ensure optimal utilization of coverage. It will enhance overall healthcare and financial well-being. You will get your insurance card from the company. Present it to the healthcare providers to get the coverage.

Case Studies and Recommendations

Case Studies of International Students

You can read various case studies of international students from online sources to get real-world insights. It will help you understand how the particular health insurance plan works in various healthcare situations, let you make informed decisions, and maximize coverage benefits.

Common Challenges and How to Overcome Them

International students may face various challenges while choosing a health insurance plan in the USA. Some common challenges are given below:

  • Increased premium expenses
  • Getting insights about complicated healthcare systems
  • Figuring out comprehensive coverage
  • Adjusting to different medical practices and costs

You can follow the below-mentioned suggestions to tackle challenges in choosing a health insurance plan:

  • Seek guidance from university resources
  • Understand policy details
  • Actively engage with healthcare providers

Tips and Advice for Making the Process Easier

  • Understand why you need health insurance and determine what type of medical treatments you will likely need.
  • Memorize various terminology related to health insurance, such as claim, premium, deductible, coinsurance, co-pay, in and out of network, etc.
  • Make sure all the actions are taken to meet the health insurance requirement for your visa.
  • Make a sophisticated plan to pay additional costs you may need to bear.
  • Take suggestions from a current or ex-student who is already enrolled in good health insurance.
  • Choose a reliable and trustworthy medical insurance company that has certifications to give you backup during your bad times. 


Illness and unexpected accidents can occur at any time, anywhere. The average medical cost of a USA resident is around $12,900. This country has one of the most expensive healthcare systems. Health insurance for international students in USA can save them from paying a huge amount of money during any illness or accident. Before choosing a particular option, contact your preferred health insurance provider and clear your queries properly. Also, keep in touch with some experts who can give you valuable suggestions and advice to avoid making expensive mistakes.

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