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The basics
THE USA: Essentials - Must read

Understanding health insurance in the USA

When thinking of your study abroad journey in the US, health insurance may be the last thing on your mind. Find out more about what cover you may need when you’re studying in the US. 

Healthcare and insurance in the US

Healthcare in the USA can be a difficult topic to understand. This is especially true for international students who may be used to a completely different system in their home country. The United States has no national health service available, unlike countries like the UK, Canada, and France. That’s why it is important to understand student health/medical insurance and what you’ll need when studying abroad.  


Healthcare in the US 


The healthcare industry in the US is completely privatised. This means that medical patients receive a bill for doctors’ visits, prescriptions, or hospital treatment. 


For those who are not willing to or who are unable to pay upfront for medical services, medical insurance is a must. Like many Americans, international students need health insurance to cover their medical costs while studying. 


While those who have grown up and lived in the USA will understand the system, it can be daunting for international students who want to study in the USA.  


If you’re studying in the US for four years, it’s more than likely that you will fall ill or need medical attention at some point. As an international student it’s already difficult to know what to do, but even more so when the medical system is confusing. 


Getting health insurance 


While your US student visa may not be dependent on having medical insurance, many universities require this as part of your application criteria. Both the embassy and your prospective university can provide relevant information about medical insurance packages and providers.   


Getting health insurance can be relatively easy, but it can depend on your circumstances. It’s always a good idea to get covered before you leave so you're covered from when you arrive in the US. When applying, there are some terms you will come across: 


Premium – this is the amount you will pay and is usually requested every month. The amount varies depending on your level of cover and personal health. 


Claim – making a claim is any situation where you need your health insurance provider to pay out. Different providers will have varying levels of claims. This can depend on how much you’re paying. Make sure to compare companies and their claim structure so you can get the best deal.  


Excess – this is the amount you are required to pay /cover as part of a claim for medical bills. For example, if you require treatment that costs USD 500, but your excess is USD 200, the insurance company will only pay USD 300. Opting for a higher excess will often result in a cheaper monthly premium. Not having an excess means much higher rates each month. 


Make sure you read the terms and conditions of a health insurance policy before applying, especially what you're covered for.  


Other insurance needs in the USA 


If you're looking to study in the US, you'll need health insurance. However, you may also need to investigate the other types of insurance that international students usually take out before studying abroad. 


This may include travel insurance. Travel insurance covers you for any issues that may arise when travelling back and forth to the US. You'll be covered in case of emergencies, delayed trips, flight cancellations, lost/damaged possessions, including replacements or repairs. 


Ensuring that you have the right medical / health insurance to protect you will make for a much smoother transition to your new home in the US. It's one and is one less thing to worry about while you’re enjoying your new study abroad experience. Want to study in the United States? Find the perfect course for you with our course matcher tool.  


Study in the USA


'Study in the USA' eBook

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