health insurance for students
Health insurance ensures you receive quality health care without having to pay for most of the healthcare services. Source: Frank Perry/AFP

Are you about to study abroad? If you’re all set to embark on a new chapter of your student journey, here’s an essential question: do you have health insurance? 

Health insurance for students studying abroad is essential, yet many don’t realise it. It ensures you receive quality health care without having to pay for most of the healthcare services. 

Healthcare, especially in other countries, can be extremely expensive. Many uninsured students don’t realise this — and it has led to them being forced to cover excessive medical bills

While getting health insurance is typically part of your visa requirements, should you get additional coverage while abroad?

Many may not consider doing so for several reasons: to save money, they deem it unnecessary, or their universities don’t require it, to name a few.

health insurance for students

F1 students in the US don’t need to obtain health insurance. Source: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images North America/Getty Images via AFP

Additional health insurance for students: Is it really necessary? 

Here’s one reason you should get health insurance: medical security. It’s hard to predict what happens abroad — you may get injured and require medical attention. 

That’s not all — most countries require their international students to have health insurance for entry into the country. This includes the UK, Canada, Australia, South Africa, China, Japan and more. 

Having said that, mandatory health insurance may not always be sufficient as it typically offers limited medical coverage, depending on the health insurance plan obtained.

The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) cover, for example, only offers free-of-charge services for the following: 

  • Consulting your GP 
  • Hospital treatment in accident or emergency services 
  • Hospital treatment recommended by your GP 
  • Maternity services 
  • Contraceptive services

Students must still pay for prescribed medicine, travel vaccinations, dental and optical treatments, and specialist treatments. 

Meanwhile, those studying in the UK for less than six months are not covered by the NHS — they are only encouraged to obtain private health insurance. 

On the other hand, the US does not require F-1 visa holders to obtain health insurance, although many American universities have it as their requirement for enrolment. 

So, if you’re registered for insurance under the national healthcare system, read through the policy to ensure that you’re getting adequate healthcare coverage. 

Health insurance for students: Isn’t my existing insurance policy back home enough? 

Unfortunately, most local insurance policies only grant you benefits within your home country. This means that whatever happens to you outside of your home country may not be covered by your existing insurance provider. 

It’s best to check with your current insurance provider if your policy covers you when you study abroad. Many insurance providers — both local and international — offer health insurance policies for students at discounted prices

health insurance for students

NYU graduate student Reginald Williams works on his laptop on the recently constructed pedestrian plaza with the Empire State Building behind him. Source: Mario Tama/Getty Images North America/Getty Images via AFP

Should I get additional healthcare coverage? 

Now Health recommends international students in the UK sign up for private health insurance, even if they are already covered by NHS. 

This is because additional cover lets you receive the right level of care during your stay. It provides access to private healthcare providers and covers specialist treatment and dental care. 

Additionally, in some countries, their public healthcare system may not be the best — some may have long waiting times, and the quality of their healthcare and facilities may or may not be advanced. 

Before signing up for private health insurance, check what your current plan covers. This way, you’ll have a clear idea of the coverage you’ll need for your private insurance policy. 

Ultimately, health insurance for students is important. Having one with good coverage will give you a peace of mind. Most importantly, it may seem that you’re burning a hole in your wallet right, but what many international students have learned the hard way is that it’s better to be safe than sorry!