Health Insurance for Studies in the USA

A good preparation for studying abroad is half the battle. An important part of the organizational preparation for your stay in the USA is health insurance for studies in the USA.

Students studying in the USA are generally not insured in the event of illness or accidents. If students have not provided for this case privately, high costs can be incurred. Particularly in the USA, treatment costs are sometimes significantly higher than in Germany. This can make a simple visit to the doctor a costly affair.

Health care system in the USA

Since 2014, the majority of US citizens have been required to take out health insurance in the USA. This is due to the Affordable Care Act, better known as ObamaCare. The aim of the healthcare reform is to provide every US citizen with access to good medical care. Those who do not take out insurance in the USA must pay a penalty fee.

Insurance obligation for the USA

International students with M, J or F visas are exempt from compulsory health insurance in the USA for five years. This does not mean that there is no other insurance obligation. Holders of a J-1 visa agree to take out health insurance for study in the United States for the duration of the exchange program. Otherwise, participation in the program will not be approved by the program sponsor or the J-1 visa will not be issued.

In addition, many American universities require that international students insure themselves through the university. This means that even students with an F-1 visa are often required to take out health insurance for studying in the USA.

Forms of health insurance for studies in the USA

Every university and exchange organisation in the USA decides whether and if so, how students have to insure themselves during their stay in the USA. There is no general rule. Nevertheless, different insurance variants can be distinguished:

  • Compulsory group insurance: Many universities in the USA require international students to insure themselves with a specific health insurance company at certain conditions when enrolling.
  • Compulsory group insurance with an option of exemption (Waive): Some U. S. universities offer international students the option of bringing their own health insurance for studying in the U. S., such as an insurance policy taken out in Germany.
  • Private health insurance abroad: In rare cases, universities in the USA do not offer health insurance, so that students are free to choose where they want to take out health insurance.

Important: Even if you take out health insurance for your studies in the United States through the U. S. university, you should check how comprehensive your insurance coverage is. Often only basic medical treatment is covered, but not dental treatment or the return transport to Germany. In such cases, it is advisable to take out additional foreign health insurance.

Exemption from foreign compulsory insurance

If you can bring your own insurance for studying in the USA, there are several things to consider. It is necessary to compare the substitute insurance exactly with the insurance benefits of the university’s own insurance. In some cases, the list of services provided by the university’s own insurance company includes points such as drug abuse or abortion. Therefore, it is recommended to request a list of all insurance benefits from the U. S. college.

Afterwards, you should have your insurance company issue you with an English benefit certificate and have your insurance cover confirmed that the benefits are in accordance with US standards. Only then you will receive a waiver from the university in the USA, which exempts you from the insurance obligation.

Good to know: Foreign health insurance taken out in Germany is often considerably cheaper than the insurance packages of US universities.

Interesting facts about taking out health insurance for studies in the USA

Students who are looking for private health insurance for studying in the USA should pay attention to several points:

  • Duration of insurance: Take out insurance for the entire period of your stay abroad. Insurance packages from universities in the USA normally only take into account the actual length of studies. Travels after the end of studies and the journey home are therefore not insured.
  • Check insurance cover: Are dental treatments, doctor’s and hospital treatments included? Are costs for medication covered? Are the transport to the hospital and back home covered? Is accident insurance included?
  • Possibility of insurance confirmation in English

Behavior in case of illness in the USA

Unfortunately, it happens that students fall ill during their studies in the USA. International students have various options in case of illness.

University Health Center

Many U. S. universities have their own health center on campus – your first port of call for health-related complaints. At some universities basic medical treatment is free of charge, but at least cheaper than off-campus treatment.

After starting your studies in the USA, it is advisable to submit information about your vaccination status to the Health Center. Some universities in the USA require that a doctor in Germany certifies the vaccinations on a form. Further information is available from the respective university.

Off-campus doctor’s visit

Insurance companies work partly with certain doctors and hospitals in the USA. If you want to visit a doctor off-campus, the Health Center often has a list of doctors. If you bring along a health insurance for your studies in the USA from Germany, you often have the possibility to have your nearest doctor announce you by telephone.

A confirmation of insurance is required for a visit to a doctor in the USA. Some doctors also require a referral from the Health Center before you are treated.