In 1994, the U.S. government developed insurance standards for the Exchange Visitor Program. These standards were adopted by many schools as the required minimum levels of coverage for all its international students. The application of these standards was generally a success. Most insurers improved their plans and provided a higher level of coverage. These levels are:
• Medical benefits of at least $50,000 per accident or illness
• Repatriation of remains in the amount of $7,500
• Expenses associated with the medical evacuation of the exchange visitor to his or her home country in the amount of $10,000
• A deductible not to exceed $500 per accident or illness.
Recently, a problem has developed. In an effort to attract students to their low cost plans, some insurance companies developed cheap, limited benefit plans. These technically meet the above requirements but they also include severe limitations. These plans do not provide the levels of coverage they highlight and have provided students a false sense of security. These plans:
• Capped major benefits such as hospital and outpatient care at very low levels. These limits can leave many expenses not covered.
• Some plans limit coverage to one year, or will not renew if the insured has a claim. This will block you from having insurance coverage for that medical condition in the second year.
• Benefits are paid at less than what doctors or hospitals charge (reasonable & customary standards).

These limitations clearly did not comply with the spirit of the USIA/INS regulations and have left many compliant students with unexpected unpaid medical bills.

The following is a suggested course of action:

Become familiar with the insurance plans you are considering. See if they truly provide the coverage they highlight. If they cap outpatient or hospitalization care, consider that the plan benefits the insurance company more than you..

Have questions about your current group or individual plan? 

Learn more about International Student Health Insurance

Health care reform has stalled with recent US political factors and a renewed focus on other economic concerns. President Obama, in the 1/27 State of the Union address, indicated however that “he will not walk away” from the issue and it is likely to brought up as part of a broader agenda.

 It is unclear how this will affect the versions of Health Care Reform that were being considered. According to Brian St. Hilaire, Senior Director Market Relations for Aetna Student Health Insurance, “the plan would have likely meant significant changes for U.S. students, but it was not clear how this would impact incoming international exchange participants. The best guess is that it would not have applied to foreign nationals.” Mr. St. Hilaire did mention that there was some speculation that the establishment of a standard level of benefits for Americans would have created be some downward pressure for DOS to match the domestic requirement for its Exchange Visitor Program.

 Other thoughts on how health care reform may affect the exchange market are that future health insurance costs may become more predictable as medical inflation is tempered. It is also likely that Americans would become more aware of their insurance’s limitations abroad and be more prudent consumers of travel medical insurance.

Learn more about International Student Health Insurance

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