Acquiring health insurance is no longer an option in the United States. Federal and state laws have now made it mandatory for all citizens and lawful permanent residents working and attending school in the U.S. to hold proper coverage. This includes international students. The cost for a hospital visit can run into the thousands. If you don’t have a health plan that will cover some or most of the costs, then you’ll cause more strain on the health care system and put yourself deeper into debt.
This is where the International Student Health Insurance Plan, or ISHIP, comes into play. Matriculated international students who are classified F-1 or J-1 status are required to buy ISHIP. Federal and state laws state that international students who study here in America have to obtain health coverage. This goes for all F-1 and J-1 eligible international students that are enrolled and actively engaged in a study program that has been approved by the Principal Designated School Official, or PDSO. These students must also be temporarily away from their home country. An International Student Health Insurance Plan automatically enrolls students each quarter they attend classes.
New international students aren’t required to obtain student health insurance coverage if they’re going to orientation or Early Fall. Short-term coverage is available for those who need it, which can be purchased from various insurance companies.
Insuring Your Health While Studying Abroad
It’s very important for international students to take their health care seriously. In the event they’re involved in an accident, proper coverage is needed to pay for the medical care they need. ISHIP was created to ensure that students from abroad have access to affordable health plans. Students can obtain plans that cover primary, urgent and preventive care. These are normally fully covered expenses and have no out-of-pocket costs. Some insurers, however, don’t offer evening and weekend care, hospitalization, pediatric care, emergency room care, or care for major complications.
Some providers offer medical and mental health services to ISHIP members, which can be obtained through clinics, hospitals and specialized medical facilities. More good news is that SHIP programs aren’t for-profit. This allows members to have savings passed on to them. This could happen in a scenario where the provider lowers or freezes SHIP premiums while expanding plan benefits like vision and dental coverage for children.
Is it Possible to Waive the ISHIP Requirement?
Yes, it is possible to have the ISHIP requirement waived, but only under certain circumstances. There are specific eligibility criteria you must meet and you have to obtain comparable health insurance that’s valid within America. Examples of criteria you may have to fit into include:
- Being an exchange or visiting student that is attending college through an official program for exchange students that is sponsored by the school you’re attending.
- Receiving funding for your scholarship from the government, either the U.S. government or the government in your home country.
- Receiving health insurance benefits through your parent, spouse or domestic partner’s employer.
- Being enrolled in college, but conducting research outside of America.
- Having health insurance benefits through a U.S.-based employer.
Any insurance you already have must include a monetary minimum that’s at least $200,000 per medical condition in a given policy year. It should also include at least $10,000 for medical evacuation and a minimum of $7,500 for repatriation of remains.
ISHIP Requirements for J-1 International Students
If you’re an international student who’s classified under the J-1 status, then your insurance requirements are different. It’s mandatory for you and your J-2 dependents to have insurance for sickness and accidents, as well as coverage for repatriation of remains and medical evacuations. This must be maintained throughout your J-1 program. If you don’t comply with this federal law, then you risk losing your J-1 status.
Minimum Coverage Needed for J-1 Students
The coverage minimums for J-1 international students are as follows:
- At least $100,00 in medical benefits per illness or accident
- A deductible that’s $500 per illness or accident
- At least $50,000 for medical evacuations back to your country of residence
- At least $25,000 for repatriation of remains
What You Need to Know About J-1 Policies
Not all insurance policies are the same, but if you are J-1 status, then your policy may:
- Require you to wait a reasonable period of time if you have a pre-existing condition based on current industry standards
- Include provisions for co-pays up to 25 percent of the coverage you receive per illness or accident
- Does not unreasonably exclude benefits for perils that occur doing activities associated with the exchange program you’re participating in.
If you are traveling with a spouse or dependent, make sure to note that they too may be subject to the Affordable Care Act requirements. However, if you decide to waive your ISHIP coverage, then you must ensure that your alternate health insurance meets the minimum requirements.
Submitting Your Statement of Compliance
When you report to campus for the first day, you need to submit your J-1 Insurance Requirement Statement of Compliance. You’ll also need to include photocopies of your immigration papers. You can check with your school to determine when and where you need to submit this paperwork.
Buying Other Insurance Plans
If you decide to waive ISHIP insurance, you will need to shop around for other health insurance that complies with Obamacare. Keep in mind your status and the individuals you plan to include in your policy. The amount of coverage you obtain will determine how much the costs will be. Some insurance policies exclude coverage for pregnancies or medical care obtained in your country of residence. Make sure the policy you’re considering will offer the coverage you and your family needs.
How to Apply to Have ISHIP Waived
If you’d like to apply to have your ISHIP requirement waived, you will need to first sign up for ISHIP at the time you enroll for your classes. Your waiver request has to be submitted before the given deadline. Make sure to check your tuition account to ensure the ISHIP charge has been removed.