Health Insurance for International Students in the US: Benefits, Policies, Facilities, Requirements


Subhashri Roy
Updated on Aug 18, 2023 04:23 PM IST

Planning your higher education in the US but don't have health insurance? Find out all about health insurance plans for international students studying in the US including the benefits, facilities, requirements and more. 

Health Insurance for International Students in the US: Benefits, Policies, Facilities, Requirements

Health insurance is an important consideration for Indian students planning to study in the USA. Access to quality healthcare services makes the stay secure and stress-free. Also, often it is a mandatory requirement of the university to possess health insurance. Students must therefore understand the intricacies of the US healthcare system and obtaining insurance is crucial.

Studying in the US is an expensive affair in itself. It is imperative to maintain health and well-being under such circumstances so as not to fall prey to unfamiliar circumstances. In case of emergency illness or accident, medical expenses may shoot up. Without proper health insurance, it would be difficult to bear the unexpected costs that may arise out of such situations. Often routine medical check-ups may also seem burdensome. 
Students must look out for health insurance plans in the USA that provide the correct combination of value, plan benefits and coverage. It must be within a budget. Many insurance companies provide insurance to students on F-1 student visas and J-1 student visas and maximum limits for students start from around USD 100,000. In this article, we will cover all about health insurance for international students in the USA under various visa schemes, coverage, benefits and ways to get it.

Health Insurance Requirements in the US Based on Student Visa Category

In the US, international students will have specific health insurance requirements depending on the student visa they are on. Here are the same for those on J-1, J-2, F-1 and M-1 visas, as determined by the U.S. State Department:

  • J-1 visa: Those on J-1 visa, including research scholars, exchange visitors and professors must have health insurance for the full length of their program.

  • J-2 visa: This is a non-immigrant visa for spouses or dependents of J-1 exchange visitors or those who join J-1 holders. They must also be covered by health insurance for the full length of the program.

  • F-1 visa: International students on an F-1 visa do not have to have medical insurance or meet government-mandated standards. However, many schools have their own health insurance requirements for F-1 visa holders.

  • M-1 visa: Students on an M-1 visa (for those enrolled in technical and vocational programs) are also not required to have health insurance by the US government.

US Health Insurance for International Students on OPT

OPT or Optional Practical Training authorises F-1 students to apply their knowledge to practical work experience for up to 12 months or more before and/or after they complete their degree program.

Students on post-completion OPT are typically not eligible for the schools health insurance plan. However, if you had an Optional Health Insurance Plan during school, you will be able to continue with the same plan.

Further, the recruiter may or may not be responsible for providing you with any health insurance plans. In case the company does not have group health insurance, you will have to opt for insurance for the entire period on your own.

US Health Insurance for International Students on H-1B Visa

All H-1B visa holders should obtain health insurance while living and working in the US. The type of health insurance will depend on residence status:

  • Short-term H-1B Health Insurance: This is for those who have recently received their H1-B visa and are considered a visitor or temporary resident in the US. One will have to purchase short-term health insurance from a private company as they would not qualify for Affordable Care Act ObamaCare) compliant health insurance coverage.

  • Long-term (domestic) H-1B Insurance: After you have completed six to 10 months in the US with an H-1B visa, you will be able to apply for ACA-compliant H1-B health insurance, which offers long term coverage of medical costs.

Need Help With Finding the Right Health Insurance Plan?

Benefits of International Student Health Insurance in the US

Let us now find out how health insurance protects you in the US:

  • Covers Essential Health Benefits: Under the Affordable Care Act, health care has become more standardised with relation to insurance plan benefits. Earlier, some plans covered prescriptions while others did not. However, now, health insurance plans in the US cover a number of essential health benefits such as emergency services, laboratory tests, maternity and newborn care, hospitalisation, mental health and substance-abuse treatment, prescriptions drugs and more.

  • Provides Protection From High Medical Costs: Health insurance in the US provides financial protection in case you meet an accident or have a serious illness. International students without health insurance will have to pay out of their pockets, which often leads to deep debt. To give you an estimate, let us state some figures as mentioned by U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services/

    • A 3-day hospital stay, on average, may cost you close to $30,000.

    • Cancer care may cost hundreds of thousands of US dollars.

    • As mentioned above, even as little as fixing a broken leg may cost up to $7,500.

According to estimates, a two-mile ambulance ride in the US may cost up to $2,700. However, with health insurance, no matter what the coverage, you will be treated in an emergency situation.

  • Free Preventive Care: Most health insurance plans in the US cover different preventive services such as vaccine shots and screening tests. For adults, it usually includes aspirin use, alcohol misuse screening and counselling, cholesterol screening, depression screening, diabetes (type 2) screening, diet counselling, Hepatitis B screening and more. Preventive care may be different for adults, women and children.

  • Cheaper In Case of In-Network Healthcare: In the US, you can either opt for in-network or out-network health care providers. In-network refers to hospitals, doctors, specialists, pharmacies and dentists, whereas out-of-network includes providers who do not have an agreement with your insurance company. Usually, it is much cheaper when you obtain health care services from an in-network professional or facility. You pay less for the same services even before you meet your deductible and eventually save hundreds of dollars.

  • Lack of Insurance May Impact Studies: In many cases, it has been seen that high medical bills have led to international students dropping out of school or stressing out on covering tuition costs. It is because of this that many US schools require students including those from outside the country to buy a health insurance plan.

What Does International Student Health Insurance in the US Cover?

Although health insurance plans vary depending on the provider, all plans offered in the Health Insurance Marketplace, which complywith the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, cover the following facilities:

  • Outpatient care without admission to a hospital

  • Hospitalisation including surgery and overnight stays

  • Emergency services

  • Mental health and substance use disorder services

  • Pregnancy, maternity and newborn care

  • Laboratory services

  • Prescription drugs

  • Preventive and wellness services

  • Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices

  • Pediatric services, including oral and vision care

Additional benefits will include birth control, breastfeeding, dental, vision coverages and medical management programs such as weight management, diabetes and back pain.

How to Get International Student Health Insurance in the USA?

Here are the steps you can follow to get health insurance in the US:

  • Find Out If Your University Has its Own Health Insurance Plan: International students may find that many US schools require a mandatory school-sponsored group insurance plan. This is provided before you arrive in the US and in many cases, students are asked to be on the universitys plan or show them proof if you already have one. Some automatically enroll international applicants in their health insurance plan for students.

  • Look for Companies Offering Health Insurance to International Students: In case your university does not have its own health insurance plan, you can check for companies that do and compare their plans.

  • Make a List of Health Benefits You Need: Do not choose a plan without figuring out what benefits you actually need. The best way to do this is by going through your medical history along with adding the basic ones, as mentioned above.

  • Pick the Most Suitable Plan for You: Before you choose, consider looking at factors such as adequate policy maximum, deductible, out-of-pocket expenses, Annual out-of-pocket maximum, coinsurance and copayment.

Securing health insurance coverage is imperative while studying in the US for Indian students. Indian and US healthcare systems differ greatly and it is important to understand the health insurance system. They must know that the US does not have a universal healthcare system like several other countries. Some universities even offer healthcare plans for all students to enrol. Therefore, one must carefully choose a private provider and the plan they have on offer.

Have Queries About Student Health Insurance in the US?


What is the cost of studying law in the USA?

The cost of studying law in the USA depends on the degree the student is opting for. The tuition fees at public law schools are lesser than private schools. Students can expect to pay between USD 20,000 and USD 30,000 for public schools whereas between USD 50,000 and USD 60,000 for private law schools. 

What are the different law degrees to study in the USA?

The different law degrees In the USA are JD and LLM. Juris Doctor (JD) is the most common degree required to practice law. There are other degrees such as Master of Laws (LLM) for international students or those seeking specialisation, and Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) for advanced legal research.

Is health insurance expensive in the USA for Indian students?

Yes, health insurance in the USA is comparatively costlier than in India. Even though it is costly, some insurance providers offer special plans tailored for students which have lower premiums and tailored benefits. Additionally, there is scope to explore group insurance plans for students through the university or higher deductibles can also be opted for. 

How to get perfect health insurance for Indian students in the USA?

To get perfect health insurance for Indian students in the USA, they must research and compare health insurance plans from several providers. The factors that must be considered while choosing a health plan are hospitalisation, a visit to doctors, laboratory tests, emergency services and mental health services. 

How much is health insurance in the USA for international students?

The cost of health insurance in the USA for international students costs between USD 500 and USD 1,000. Compared to India, the healthcare cost is higher in the USA and it is essential to be prepared with health insurance to combat the emergency costs that may arise. Also, the cost depends upon age, coverage limits, deductibles and insurance providers. 

Do you need health insurance for an F-1 visa in the USA?

No, there is no specific health insurance requirement for an F-1 visa in the USA for international students. The US Department of State does not share any specific guidelines of the same. However, in most cases, the university to which you are applying, determines the coverage needed or you must understand the insurance requirements yourself. 

What does health insurance for Indian students in the USA cover?

Health insurance in the USA for Indian students covers medical expenses, hospital visits, emergency services and medications under prescriptions. Through insurance, students get access to quality healthcare that makes their stay in a foreign country bearable without having to spend a substantial amount suddenly out of pocket.

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