Saturday, April 12, 2008

International Student Insurance

Think starting college is difficult? Imagine starting college in another country! When international students come to the U one of the hurdles they have to clear is to understand the U.S. health system. The University’s policy that all students have health insurance crosses international borders.

All University students, U.S. citizens or otherwise, must have health insurance to register for courses. Boynton Health Service’s website for International student insurance states “Healthcare in the United States is complicated and very expensive - one illness can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and financially devastate you and your family.”
International students can waive University Insurance as long as they have health insurance from an American country or if they have a different plan offered by the University, the Graduate Assistant Insurance Plan.

There is a lot of paperwork to go through as an international student and health insurance is no exception. International student have to bring documentation of their insurance to Boynton before the first week of class is completed or else the student will be charged for University Insurance.

International students are eligible for insurance as long as all of their paperwork is processed by International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS). Insurance coverage that is offered by the University to international students is the same as that offered to students from the U.S. as is the price. Insurance for an entire semester costs $782.00. Insurance coverage for spouses and dependents of international students cost the same amount as well.

However, there are a few differences in the health insurance plans between international and U.S. students. One feature is “New! Accidental death benefit of $10,000 US dollars for international students and scholars.” Also, all international students are covered by MEDEX, a worldwide medical plan that helps citizens of other countries in the event of serious medical emergencies. Here is a list of services provided by MEDEX from the Boynton website.

• 24-hour worldwide medical referrals

• Evaluation and monitoring of treatment

• Medical evacuations and repatriation of mortal remains

• Assistance with the coordination of on-going rehabilitation after an evacuation

• Coordination of emergency medical, vaccine and blood transfers

• Help with replacing lost or stolen medication and/or medical supplies

• Verification of insurance coverage to facilitate hospital admission
• Assistance with lost or stolen travel documents (i.e. passport)

• Emergency language interpretation services

• Emergency cash advance

• Referrals to translators, interpreters and legal resources

• Emergency message transmittals

• Return of children and traveling companion

• Emergency family-travel arrangement

MEDEX services are also available to U.S. students traveling abroad through a University of Minnesota program. And in my opinion, I wonder why these services have to be unique to international students in this country and abroad. It seems like some of the services that MEDEX provides should be provided by insurance to American students as well. If I was in an emergency medical situation, I would definitely appreciate family-travel arrangements, an emergency cash advance or referrals to legal resources. Its true that all of these services would benefit international students much more- especially if there was a language barrier. But if it is feasible for insurance policies to cover international students in this way, wouldn’t they be able to expand it to all of the other students as well- especially for students who move out of state. I think it would be valid for the University to consider expanding some of these services to all U students.

- Alex Harkness