The basics
Study abroad : Student Finances

What is student medical insurance?

When studying abroad having medical insurance is recommended. However, deciding which type of insurance would be best for you and what to look out for can be tough. We explore the key facets of student medical insurance coverage.

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When traveling abroad for your studies insurance may not be the first thing that crosses your mind as a priority. However, student medical insurance is a very important aspect of safeguarding your study abroad adventure. International student medical insurance makes a big difference to your peace of mind and is essential in the unfortunate event of illness or an accident. We’re here to guide you through the sometimes-confusing world of medical insurance for university students, from the options to the cost.


What is student medical insurance?


Student medical insurance is designed to cover the costs of any healthcare and medical expenses you may incur when studying abroad. It’s a safety net that protects you in the event that become ill or have an accident which requires hospitalisation or a medical intervention. Although thinking about such misfortune isn’t necessarily pleasant, it is something that is important to acknowledge and address. Student medical insurance is something that should be factored into the cost of studying abroad.


Don’t forget that not all medical insurance policies are created equal and cover you to a different extent, with variable premiums and costs. It’s best to try and opt for a more comprehensive plan, even though this may be a little more expensive. You want to ensure that in the event of an emergency you can get the care that you need and you won’t be bankrupted as a result, student budgets can be tight.



Why do I need medical insurance as an international student?


Having medical insurance is an important component of any study abroad adventure. Not only does it give you the confidence to immerse yourself in the experience without having to be too risk averse, it’s also important for financial well-being and stability.  You don’t want to be in a situation where you are burdened with large medical bills that you cannot afford.


Universities and colleges in various countries will also actively encourage you to take out medical insurance, and in some cases, require you to present evidence of your insurance prior to enrolment, although this is not a legal requirement in all countries.


As an international student part of the visa application process for some destinations will require that you submit proof of your student medical insurance. This is the case for medical insurance for students in the UK, if you are studying a course that is less than six months in duration. For courses longer than this you are required to pay a health surcharge of GBP 470 per year as part of the visa application process. It is also recommended that you take out additional personal insurance.


In the case of medical insurance for students in the USA, notably J-1 and F-1 visa applicants, you are also required to show proof of medical cover prior to being granted a visa and permission to study in the country. If you choose to study in Canada you will also need to organise comprehensive student medical insurance for the duration of your study programme.


It is also recommended that, even in cases where medical insurance is not mandated by a country or institution, you take out travel insurance. This type of insurance can help in the event that you lose possessions, misplace your passport, have a flight cancellation or need to travel home unexpectedly.  


How do I get medical insurance?


International student medical insurance is generally offered by private companies and providers from within the insurance industry. Sometimes, these are specialist medical or travel insurance companies.  You can also apply for insurance through banks, travel agents, and some retail companies who often act as third-party providers.


You will need to evaluate your options considering things like the cost of the premiums, the coverage and reputation of the company providing the insurance. Once you have decided on a provider you will need to lodge an application, which does require you to submit certain information:


  • Personal details
  • Confirmation of acceptance by a university
  • Study information
  • Travel information
  • Financial information
  • Medical history
  • Plans while studying (volunteering, work etc…)


Make sure that your cover is confirmed and coincides with your dates of travel and arrival, as well as the duration of your study programme. Verify whether there are proposed changes to premiums or costs over time and whether the policy renews automatically each year or requires your confirmation for renewal.


What does student medical insurance cover?


Verifying what you are covered for is an essential aspect of student medical insurance. Not all policies will cover you for exactly the same thing and so you need to evaluate what you require based on your personal profile and the sorts of activities you may get up to when studying, for example working or an adventure holiday.


At a base level the majority of international student medical insurance policies will cover you in the event of a medical emergency and pay for your treatment. However, as with any policy it’s important to check the fine print, as there can be limits on the amount of that is paid out and what is known as an excess amount, that you are responsible for. Make sure to get your insurance provider to go through these details with you, including how to make a claim should you need to do so.


You are also able to combine student medical insurance coverage with travel insurance. This should cover you for a number of things including:


  • Fee coverage in cases where a medical condition means you cannot complete your course.
  • Repatriation
  • Medical procedures and treatment
  • Emergency care
  • Accidents and personal injury
  • Lost / stolen/ damaged possessions
  • Travel costs in the event of cancellations / delays


How much does student of medical cost?


The golden rule when applying for and taking out student medical insurance is that you should always aim for the best cover for your budget. Although it is tempting to under insure yourself to save a bit of money, in the long run it’s not the ideal approach and you could find yourself in a difficult situation.


Many factors can affect how much your student medical insurance will cost such as your medical history, the destination you’re studying in and how long you’re going to be staying there. Costs will also vary depending on providers and so it’s always a good idea to do your research and compare what’s on offer. Generally speaking a good package usually costs in the region of GBP 25 to GBP 50 a month, which works out to about GBP 300 to GBP 600 a year, that’s about USD 400 to USD 800. Make sure that you know the overall amount you are covered for each area of insurance, such as personal liability cover and emergency medical cover.


Armed with information on student medical insurance you are now in a good place to start exploring some of the other aspects of studying abroad, including our comprehensive study abroad checklist,  the top tips for scholarship application and our application timeline guide.



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