International Student Blog
International Student Medical Insurance

Does an International Student Need Student Medical Insurance?

If you are an international student planning to study in the United States, you will be required to have some type of medical insurance.

International Student Medical Insurance

  • The healthcare system in the United States may be different from what you are used to in your home country.
  • You will be required to buy a health, or medical, insurance plan either through your university or another private provider.
  • There is no universal access or national health care like there is in some other countries.

While U.S. healthcare is among the best in the world, medical costs can be very expensive.

  • For example, the average cost of an M.R.I. scan is $1,121 and the average cost of an appendectomy is $13,851.
  • A car crash could end up being over $100,000.
  • As you can see, it’s very important that you are covered by student medical insurance so that you are not responsible for the entire medical bill.

Medical insurance plans will cover the majority of costs incurred, but you may be expected to cover some form of the medical expense through copays, deductibles, coinsurance and/or excluded items.

  • Copays are an amount you pay each time for a certain medical expense, such as a doctor’s office visit or a prescription.
  • The deductible is an amount that you will be required to pay your medical costs up to. For example, with a deductible of $1,000, an international student would need to pay for their medical expenses up to $1,000 while on the plan. Once that $1,000 is reached, the insurance provider would begin to cover medical expenses.
  • Coinsurance is a percentage of the costs that you would pay. For instance, if you had a 20% coinsurance responsibility, you would be required to pay 20% of a medical bill.
  • Excluded items are medical situations that would not be covered by an insurance plan.

Depending on the student medical insurance plan, the inclusion of copays, deductibles, coinsurance, and excluded items and their amounts will vary.

  • It is important to check your plan to make sure you understand what you may be responsible for and what fits your medical needs the best.

International students on a J1 visa or F1 visa will have to purchase medical insurance.

  • Those on a J1 visa need to purchase a plan that follows a set of U.S. government’s requirements.
  • Those on an F1 visa do not need to purchase insurance that follow those requirements, however, they must follow their university’s insurance requirements.

Depending upon the visa type, J1 Visa or F1 visa, and the university that the international student is attending, they will be required to purchase the university’s medical insurance plan or be able to choose another medical insurance option.

Most universities will fall under these three scenarios:

  1. The university will have a mandated medical insurance plan that an international student is required to purchase.
  2. The university will have a medical insurance plan that is available for students to purchase, however, international students may shop for other private medical insurance plans, as long as that plan meets the university’s requirements.
  3. The university does not have set university requirements, and international students are free to choose any private medical insurance option.
  • It is important that you review whatever student medical insurance plan you do choose, making sure that you understand what your payment responsibilities would be in the event of needing medical care.
  • Choosing the right insurance plan for your medical needs is important, but another thing that will determine the cost of your medical care is where you receive that medical care. There are large hospital systems, small hospitals, urgent care centers, emergency rooms, clinics, pharmacies, local doctor’s offices, campus hospital systems, campus urgent cares – all of which provide a variety of medical care options and have different costs.

The best place to go for routine or minor medical issues is likely your university campus clinic or urgent care.

  • Usually, universities are less expensive than other health care facilities and have discounts for students that attend their university.
  • Another less expensive option would be to head to a local doctor’s office or urgent care.

If possible, don’t go to the emergency room, as they are the most expensive care centers in the U.S.

  • However, if you have do have a life-threatening illness or serious illness, the emergency room will be best equipped to handle whatever health situation may be occurring.
  • At that point, cost is not important, and you should ensure that you are receiving the best and emergency-ready health care possible.

In terms of prescriptions, if you are prescribed one by a doctor, you might be required to hold onto the receipt and then submit a claim to your insurance provider to be reimbursed.

  • This will depend on the plan and you should check with your individual plan to know what you need to do in this situation.
  • So, make sure that you are receiving your care from the proper place and that you do your research on your student medical insurance plan.

If your university does not require you to purchase their medical insurance plan, Nomad Credit can help you search for private health insurance options. One of our partners, TaiAn Financial, is a private medical insurance option. We’d be happy to connect you to TaiAn Financial to see if they have an option that will fit your university and your visa type – J1 visa or F1 visa. For more information about TaiAn Financial, please see our latest blog post about them.

As always, please visit us at to search for your international student loan options, including education loans or study loans and student health insurance.


Nathan Treadwell

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