Health Insurance FAQs for International Students
Why do I need health insurance while I am here and what are the consequences of having inadequate or no health insurance?
There is very restricted government-funded health care in the United States. Costs for health care in the United States are managed through private companies, many that are national and sometimes even international, but not government-based. The cost for health care is high and increases annually.
Usually an individual does not have the financial ability to pay for these costs, especially diagnostic tests and hospitalization. For example, surgical procedures can easily cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, uninsured hospitalization for just one day can cost several thousand dollars; an ambulance or a CT scan can cost around $2000-$3000; just one i.v. injection can cost around $200.
Sometimes doctors charge several times (about 7 times) as much to an uninsured patient as they do for the insured because health insurance companies are able to negotiate such drastic discounts for their patients. These are all out of pocket costs for the uninsured. Health insurance companies pay the majority or sometimes all of the costs, thereby drastically reducing the cost to the individual, even after paying $200-$300 per month in premiums.
A few years ago an international student at PSR had a health insurance policy from her home country in Asia. However, her policy did not include all hospital expenses. The student became ill enough that she needed to be in the hospital. The cost to her was $40,000! This is one reason that PSR and the GTU require students to have not just any health insurance, but sufficient health insurance. We do not want any student to face such a situation. Therefore, health insurance is essential.
What kinds of services do qualified comprehensive health plans cover and what kind of fees should I pay attention to?
Comprehensive health plans generally cover all things health related: doctor’s visits for flu, infections and other illnesses; prescribed medicine; urgent care for when you have health emergencies, vaccinations such as for influenza, polio, hepatitis, TB; diagnostic tests such as X-rays, MRI, CAT scan, and preventative health care. Please refer to the Summary of Coverage and Benefits sheet for GTU HIPS to see what the GTU HIPS covers. While GTU HIPS covers many of the above named services, it does not cover dental or vision materials such as glasses and contacts, even though it covers eye exams. Additionally, life insurance plans are not a substitute for health insurance and vice versa.
Being insured usually requires that someone (you, your employer, your spouse) pay a monthly premium. These premiums can range from $30/month to $1000/month depending on many factors, such as who the company is, how extensive your coverage is, how many people are covered.
Many health insurance policies including GTU HIPS include requirements for the individual to pay some minor costs each time they use health services. One may have to pay a co-payment or a small additional fee paid upfront each time they visit a doctor or when they pick up their prescription medication. In addition, there might deductibles, for example, an individual might be required to pay the first $500 of a charge that is really $2000 for staying overnight at the hospital, but the insurance company will pay for the remaining $1500. For more information on the co-pays and deductibles of the school’s plan GTU HIPS, please refer to the Summary of Coverage and Benefits sheet for GTU HIPS. Health insurance policies vary and you should carefully analyze any health insurance plan you are comparing to the GTU health insurance program (GTU HIPS) for students by a variety of factors that can include the type of services and care you’ll need the most and is covered by your plan, the co-payment and deductible amounts, the monthly premiums, how accessible will the facilities and doctors be to you during your time here, and whether or not you already have a regular doctor or specialists you want to continue to use.
I have an international health insurance policy from my country. Why can’t I just use that? It is much cheaper than the PSR/GTU policy.
As you can see from the above example, often an international health insurance policy issued outside of the United States does not adequately cover the costs of getting the same services you would use in your own country. In many cases, the same services you would receive and would be fully covered in your country could cost you far more than your plan could cover.
Also, one of the conditions under which Kaiser has agreed to offer a school-wide plan is to ensure that all full-time students not on Kaiser have comparable plans that fulfill standards negotiated between Kaiser and our health insurance consultants. These standards are described on the GTU HIPS waiver form (PDF). If students did not fulfill this part of the bargain, PSR would lose its eligibility to offer this health insurance membership to our students.
In general International Travel insurance which usually has a relatively higher amount of coverage in the case of catastrophic accident, death or sickness does not qualify. The following are examples of health plans from AIG, a popular choice for international students. The first three plans do not satisfy the terms of the GTU HIPS waiver. The last one does. These first three plans DO NOT fulfill the terms of the waiver because the first three categories Accident Death & Disability, Accident Medical Expenses, and Sickness Medical Expenses total to less than $250,000:
This AIG is an example of a policy that DOES fulfill the waiver requirements because the first three categories add up to at least $250,000.
If you feel that your policy is adequate, fill in the waiver application and submit it to the Registrar who will evaluate the request and inform you whether or not your policy qualifies. If there are still questions as to the eligibility of your plan, it may be evaluated by the Chief Financial Officer. Once a decision has been made, you will be informed about your choices and deadlines – usually enrolling in the GTU HIPS plan.
When do I need to turn in my waiver form or Kaiser application?
By the last day of General Registration.
For more frequently asked questions about student health insurance go here.