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Health Care Insurance

The main purpose of an insurance plan is to protect you against a major financial loss in case of a serious illness or accident. When you purchase insurance, you agree to pay a certain amount on a monthly or quarterly basis, and the company agrees to pay for your expenses either partially or in full. The document that you sign is called a policy, and it typically states the covered expenses and exclusions (expenses not covered) under the terms of the contract.

Unlike some other countries, the United States does not have a universal health care system. A short stay in the hospital can result in thousands of dollars in medical expenses. A non-emergency visit to a regular physician today can easily cost $100, not including medication if needed. You should know that the U.S. government does not pay for health care costs for international students. In fact, if you are an F-1 student, you are required to have enough funds to cover such expenses. You are therefore strongly advised to buy medical insurance to avoid serious financial hardship that could ruin your educational plans.

Regardless of your choice of insurance company, you need to clearly understand the nature and the extent of your coverage. Here are a few basic points that are especially noteworthy:

  1. Individual or family coverage. If you have dependants (a spouse and/or children), you may be wise to purchase a policy that provides for family coverage.

  2. Geographical limitations. You need to know whether the insurance policy pays for medical services rendered outside the United States.

  3. Medical evacuation and repatriation. Does your policy cover the costs of transportation to your home country for a covered medical condition or in the event of your death?

  4. Coverage for other health services. Dental and vision services normally require separate policies.

  5. Cancellation clause. Most insurance companies are required to include a provision under which a policyholder may review a plan for a specified period (usually at least 10 days) and, if dissatisfied for any reason, return it for a full refund.

  6. Appeals process. Find out about the appeals process if you think your claim has been denied without justification. But before you undertake this action, you need to clearly understand the limitations and exclusions of the policy. Always ask questions if you are not sure about any point in the policy.

Below is a list of some basic insurance terms and their definitions:

Benefits - A sum of money or services provided to the insured according to the terms of the contract.

Claim - A formal request by the insured for payment for a covered expense.

Copayment - The amount for which the insured is responsible after the deductible (if applicable) has been met. For example, under an HMO medical plan you may be required to pay a fixed amount during each visit to your doctor.

Deductible - The amount of money that the insured individual is required to pay before the insurance company pays its own share of the expense.

Emergency - Hospital service usually reserved for serious or urgent care situations. Most HMOs require a referral from your primary care physician.

Exclusions - Expenses or services that are not covered under the terms of an insurance policy and must be paid by the insured.

Lapse in Coverage - Termination of policy normally due to nonpayment of premiums.

Policy - A contract issued by the insurer stating the benefits, limitations, and exclusions of an insurance plan.

Pre-existing condition - A medical condition that existed before the plan was purchased. The company does not normally cover expenses related to this condition.

Premium - Payment made periodically (monthly, quarterly or semi-annually) to the insurer to ensure coverage.

Below is a list of insurance websites:

Compass Benefits Group  (

Cultural Insurance Services International  (
Insurance for individuals and groups engaging in international or cultural exchange.

Fortis Short Term and Student Health through National Insurance Store  (
Fortis provide short term and student health insurance products.

Health Care Global (Wallach & Company, INC.)  (
Specializing in providing medical insurance and assistance for individuals traveling or living outside their home country.

HTH Worldwide Insurance Services (800-242-4178)  
Specializes in providing health insurance to both international students studying in the USA and U.S. study abroad students.

International Incorporated Associated Insurance Plans International Inc. (
Provides student-related insurance program for colleges and universities across the United States.

International SOS  (
The World's Largest Medical Assistance Company

International Student Insurance  (
Health, medical and travel insurance programs for international student abroad.

ISO - International Student Organization (

Lewer Agency, Inc.  (
Provides International Student Insurance.

On Call International  (
Provides a variety of Medical and Travel Assistance services for individuals.

The Harbour Group L.L.C.  (
A specialized, full service insurance broker provides comprehensive medical insurance to international students & scholars.

Disclaimers: The above information is provided for reference ONLY. Any of these companies or organizations are not affiliate with Montgomery College.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: Some information for this topic was taken from a NAFSA (Association of International Educators) publication titled: Medical Insurance for International Students, Scholars, and Their Families, by Judith A Green.

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