Health Insurance

For International Students

Contact Shan McSpadden, International Student Support Coordinator, with questions: 510/849-8250 | lmcspadden@psr.edu

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! PSR does not want any student to face such a situation. Therefore, we strongly encourage you to have sufficient health insurance coverage.

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. 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 require 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. Health insurance policies vary and you should carefully analyze any health insurance plan 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? 

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.

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.