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Why you need medical insurance when you study abroad

Study abroad experiences are full of exciting opportunities. You’ll explore new countries and cultures, meet new people, and make new memories. However, there are some essentials you’ll need to sort out before heading overseas, including medical insurance.

Medical insurance is a legal requirement for getting a student visa in many countries, including popular destinations like New Zealand, the US, Germany, Australia, and Canada. Without appropriate health cover, you might not be able to study in your chosen country.

Why is medical insurance so important?

Medical treatment in many countries is not free. Without sufficient health insurance, you run the risk of facing huge bills should you become ill or unwell.

Even something as minor as a chipped tooth could add thousands to the cost of your study abroad experience, so investing in a comprehensive medical insurance package is vital.

How to buy international student medical insurance

Most universities request copies of your medical insurance documents before accepting you onto a program, so it’s sensible to sort your policy out early.

Lots of universities work with partner insurance firms to offer international student policies. Buying one of these packages is quick and convenient, and it guarantees you have the correct level of coverage for your specific circumstances. However, they can often wind up being more expensive than other policies.

If you’re looking to make a saving and source your own insurance policy, then you’ll find loads of insurers offering a variety of care plans on the internet. However, it’s worth remembering that some countries and institutions only accept a certain type of policy. Check the minimum requirements with your university’s international office or admissions team before beginning your search.

How much does study abroad medical insurance cost?

The cost of international student medical insurance varies widely depending on where you decide to study. However, most policies cost somewhere between $200 and $1,000 per year.

If you’re an EU, EEA, or Swiss citizen who has decided to study in another European country, you’ll be issued with a European Health Insurance (EHIC) card. This card entitles you to state-provided healthcare at the same price as the locals in your host country, which is sometimes free. However, it doesn’t cover private medical costs.

If you’re lucky enough to be enrolled in a scholarship program, your university will often arrange and pay for medical insurance on your behalf. This isn’t always the case though, so it’s always best to double-check with your institution.

What should your medical insurance cover?

Requirements can vary depending on your nationality and where you want to study, but all good international medical insurance policies cover the following:

  • Emergency hospital treatment
  • Ambulance and emergency services cover
  • Tests and x-rays
  • Emergency evacuation/repatriation
  • Doctor/physician appointments
  • Emergency dental work

If you have a pre-existing medical condition, like diabetes or epilepsy, you must declare this before taking out a policy. Failure to mention your condition will invalidate your policy and your insurer could refuse to pay for any treatment you need while studying abroad.

How do you make a claim?

If you injure yourself or fall ill, you’ll need to contact your insurers. Most providers will give you a 24-hour emergency phone number that can be reached from anywhere in the world. You should use this in the event of an emergency and carry the number with you.

If you need to make a claim for a smaller issue, it’s often best for you to pay the doctor directly, but remember to ask for a receipt. You’ll need to submit the receipt as evidence when you contact your insurers to claim your money back.