Study Abroad Health Insurance: What You Need to Know

There's a lot to plan for studying abroad. Have you thought about health insurance while you're out of the country? Here's why it should be on your list.

Whether you’re getting ready to take an international vacation or you’re preparing for a semester of study abroad, there are a lot of details that go into preparing for a trip: You need to make sure your passport is current. You may need to apply for a visa to visit a particular country. Depending on where you’re traveling, you might even need to get special vaccinations in advance. There’s another detail that’s important to have ironed out before you leave the country and head out on your exciting international adventure: you need to make sure you have proper medical insurance coverage in case you get sick or injured abroad. Lining up the proper health insurance coverage while you’re abroad is more important than you may realize. In fact, ConsumerReports.org says that 15% of travelers are reported to experience some sort of medical issue during their journey. Below you’ll find numerous details about how health insurance for international student travel works, plus information about what your standard health insurance may or may not cover and when it’s time to consider travel medical insurance.

Understanding health insurance abroad

To get started, let’s talk about standard health insurance. If you already have a health insurance policy, there’s a chance it might provide you some level of coverage if you need medical treatment while you’re out of the country. However, it’s important to maintain realistic expectations. Just because you may have some level of overseas medical coverage doesn’t mean your private health insurance will pick up the tab for everything if you need medical treatment outside of the United States.

Related: Adulting 101: An Introduction to Health Care and Insurance

What your standard health insurance covers

Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to the question, “What will your standard health insurance cover while you travel abroad?” Coverage can vary widely from provider to provider and even policy to policy. With that being said, if you need medical coverage outside of an initial emergency, your domestic health care plan may not be super helpful. Medicare, per the US Department of State, generally won’t cover health care you get outside the United States either, with a few exceptions. Lisa Zamosky, author of Healthcare, Insurance, and You: The Savvy Consumer’s Guide, tells Next Avenue, “In most cases, you’ll get some coverage for care needed to treat an emergency [from your existing health insurance policy], but you’ll have to pay out of pocket and then submit for reimbursement after you return home.”

Questions to ask your health insurance provider

Want to discover exactly what medical treatment might be covered while you’re traveling or studying abroad? Your best bet is to call your current health insurance provider and ask. Here are 10 helpful questions to help you get started:

  • Does my health plan provide coverage for treatment outside the United States?
  • Will my health plan cover emergency medical evacuation?
  • Will my plan cover hospitalization and treatment for the full period I’m abroad or is coverage limited to a specific, shorter period of time?
  • How much is my deductible?
  • What is the maximum amount of coverage abroad?
  • Are there exclusions I should be aware of (e.g., participating in high-risk activities, traveling in a war zone, natural disasters, etc.)?
  • Do I need to be pre-authorized for treatments or surgeries to be eligible for medical coverage?
  • Will I need to pay for medical services out of pocket and file a claim for reimbursement?
  • Are pre-existing medical conditions covered?
  • What do I use to provide proof of international health insurance (if needed) while traveling abroad?

In addition to asking these questions, there are many helpful resources online that can help you sort out what your health insurance may cover when you travel abroad.

Related: Health Insurance in College: What Options Are Out There?

When to consider travel medical insurance

According to the US Department of State, travel medical insurance is a policy that covers the cost of any medical treatment you may need while abroad. If you’re leaving the United States, the general rule of thumb is that you need to purchase additional travel medical insurance—especially if you’ll be studying abroad for an extended period of time. It’s also worth noting that many universities require you to sign up for a student health insurance program to participate in a university-sponsored study abroad program. For example, Brown University makes students purchase “comprehensive health insurance that will cover them for the full duration of their stay while abroad.”

In extreme circumstances, the cost of international medical treatment and medical evacuation can be astronomical. The US Department of State reveals that it can cost more than $50,000 to be evacuated from a foreign country back to the United States if you run into serious medical problems abroad. Unfortunately, this high cost is one that most domestic health insurance policies won’t cover, as it’s not considered “customary and reasonable.”

Related: How You Can Overcome 3 Common Study Abroad Stressors

Traveling abroad without a policy in place is a risk, plain and simple. However, if you purchase the right policy, you can rest easier knowing you have one less thing to worry about on your upcoming study abroad trip.

Studying abroad will cost more than just the price of health insurance. Find scholarships for your international study with our Scholarship Search tool.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

Tags:

About Michelle Lambright Black

Michelle Lambright Black

Michelle Lambright Black, founder of CreditWriter.com and HerCreditMatters.com, is a leading credit expert with over 15 years of experience in the credit industry. She’s an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring, identity theft, budgeting, and debt eradication. Michelle is also an experienced personal finance and travel writer. You can connect with her on Twitter @MichelleLBlack and Instagram @CreditWriter.

 

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Rose Kearsley

Rose Kearsley

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has seriously helped me out a lot, especially when it comes to scholarships and studying for tests like the ACT. I also really love the financial help. It’s a little harder to pay because I live with a family of eight, so any help is appreciated. Thanks for this opportunity!

Lu Diehl

Lu Diehl

High School Class of 2022

I never would have found the college I plan on attending without CollegeXpress! I've always been a person of ambition and have been dreaming of studying and working on my passion for law, legal studies, and political science. Washington College is where I plan on pursuing my career. My journey with my education has been difficult, and oftentimes, I was told I would never amount to much, but now I'm dual enrolled at Caroll Community College and have had experience in the fields I am dedicated to. Without the help of CollegeXpress (even in its early days), I would never have found Washington College and the information I need to apply and become a part of their community.

Yuhlani Patterson

Yuhlani Patterson

High School Student

CollegeXpress has helped me find so many scholarships that fit me. They match me to colleges I have specific interest in to make searching for colleges way easier and more efficient. CollegeXpress refers me to schools that have my major of interest and backup schools if I want to change my mind. CollegeXpress also gives out their own scholarships, so you have even more of a chance at gaining multiple scholarships. This website has helped me de-stress from the pressure of not being able to afford college, [of finding] what schools are right for me, and how to find easy access to scholarships that most people never knew existed.

Priscilla Yeboah

Priscilla Yeboah

High School Student

I was afraid and timid throughout my search for colleges, but I finally found the college that was fit for me and luckily I got accepted. One of the most influential things that helped me was the articles and advice on CollegeXpress. They've helped me a lot and benefited me as a senior to make the right choices in life. Thank you!

Farrah Macci

Farrah Macci

High School Class of 2016

CollegeXpress has helped me in many ways. For one, online searches are more organized and refined by filtering scholarships through by my personal and academic interests. Due to this, it has made searching for colleges and scholarships significantly less stressful. As a student, life can already get stressful pretty quickly. For me, it’s been helpful to utilize CollegeXpress since it keeps all of my searches and likes together, so I don’t have to branch out on multiple websites just to explore scholarship options.

College Matches
X

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Oklahoma State University

Stillwater, OK

Alfred University

Alfred, NY

Saint John's University

Collegeville, MN