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Health Insurance


It is extremely important to have valid health insurance while you live in the USA. Without insurance, visiting the doctor, going to hospital, or even just buying medicine can be very expensive.


Most colleges and universities in the USA require all students to have health insurance, and many will instruct you on buying a policy from a specific company. However, when you finish your academic program, your student health insurance policy will end. If you will stay in the USA after you graduate (e.g. to work or travel), then you should buy new health insurance as soon as possible.


You should always have proof of your health insurance with you in case of emergencies. Most insurance companies will send you a wallet-sized health insurance card which you can keep on your person.


Finding an Insurance Policy


The types of services, procedures, and medications that are covered by insurance companies vary widely.

It is important to have a basic idea of what an insurance policy covers before you purchase, especially if you have any medical conditions or prescriptions. Many student health insurance policies, for example, will not cover costs associated with pregnancy and childbirth if you were pregnant before the policy started.


The following companies offer health insurance specifically for international students:



Understanding your Coverage


Insurance in the USA is very complicated and the healthcare system has a language of its own when it comes to costs and billing.


See our health care glossary for an explanation of some of the more common health insurance


Prescription Medication


If you regularly take a medication that was prescribed in your home country, you can bring a 90-day supply with you to the USA (unless the medicine is not legal here). After that, it is possible to have a 3-month supply of medicine shipped to the USA every time you run out. You can find more guidance on how to

do this here.


If your prescription medication is not legal in the USA, or if shipping it regularly is too difficult, you may need to make an appointment with a doctor to get a prescription so you can purchase an equivalent medication here.

Getting Medical Help


It is a good idea to know what to do and where to go if you fall ill or get injured during your time in the USA. The services you can use depend on your insurance, and most insurance companies have resources to help you find providers that are covered.


Before going to a doctor or clinic, check that your insurance will cover the cost. You can usually look this up through your insurance company’s online portal, or call the office you plan to visit and ask if they will accept your insurance.


Primary Care


Many Americans have a Primary Care Physician. This is a doctor or a clinic that you visit for treatment or advice regarding non-emergency medical conditions. Primary Care Physicians have general training, so if you need specialized medical care for something, they will connect you with a specialist doctor with specific

training in that area (e.g. a dermatologist for skin conditions).


You are not required to have a Primary Care Physician, although some insurance policies may require you to have one. If you tend to visit a doctor regularly, or if you have a persistent medical condition, then it can be useful to sign up with a Primary Care Physician.


Typical Primary Care services include:


  • Treatment of non-emergency illness and injury

  • Referrals to specialists

  • Prescriptions

  • Physical examinations

  • Vaccinations


Urgent Care


Urgent Care clinics treat people for non-emergency conditions and injuries. Urgent Care services are similar to those you would find at a Primary Care Physician. A benefit of Urgent Care is that clinics are usually open for longer hours and can see patients at short notice. However, unlike a Primary Care Physician, they will not have all your background medical information which can be helpful in finding the best treatment.


Typical Urgent Care services include:


  • Treatment of non-emergency illness and injury

  • Prescriptions

  • Physical examinations

  • Vaccinations



Emergency Room (ER)


If you are experiencing a medical emergency, you should go to the Emergency Room at your nearest hospital. A medical emergency is a condition or injury that is life-threatening or that requires immediate attention, like a broken bone or difficulty breathing. ERs are open and accept patients at all hours of the day and night, but you might still wait for a long time to be seen (depending on your condition).


If you cannot easily and safely get to the ER on your own, you should call 911 and an ambulance will collect you.

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