Common Questions: Is the Affordable Care Act Suitable for International Students?

December 6th, 2022 by Jennifer Frankel

The Affordable Care Act – also referred to as ACA, Obamacare, or PPACA – has now been around for over a decade having been signed into law by former President Obama on March 23, 2010. The ACA required US citizens and permanent residents to maintain “minimum essential healthcare coverage” or be subject to pay a fine when paying taxes to the International Revenue Service (IRS). This fine has since been eliminated in many cases but it changed the landscape of the way that US insurance companies did and continue to do business.

While the initial intent of the bill was to expand coverage to US citizens, there were questions surrounding its impact on international students, scholars, and other populations. Now, having been in existence for a while, there is a lot of clarity about what school and student responsibilities are. In this blog, we will examine some popular questions regarding ACA coverage.

Does the ACA apply to international students?

If a student is holding an F, J, M, or Q visa in the U.S., they are considered a non-resident alien for tax purposes for the first 5 years and are exempt from the mandate. There is no insurance requirement for F1 students, and it is up to the school to determine what the requirements are.

Does the ACA apply to J visa holders similarly?

Similar to the requirement for F visa holders, any J visa holder who is a non-resident for tax purposes is also exempt from the ACA. But, unlike F1 visa holders who have no federal requirements, the Department of State does require that all J1 and J2 visa holders maintain a certain level of insurance requirements while in the US at all times (which is significantly less than what the ACA requires).

>>Learn the insurance requirements for J visa holders

How are schools navigating their group insurance plan for students?

Many schools throughout the US do require some level of health insurance; however that can vary by school. The most common ways to administer a school’s insurance plan includes:

  • A group plan just for international students (which may or may not include scholars)
  • A group plan for all students, including US and international students
  • No group plan, but may require all students to enroll in an individual plan that meets certain requirements

While the way in which insurance is administered can vary school by school, it is important that all international students carry some insurance while they are in the US. It can be challenging to explain how expensive the healthcare system in the US is and how there is no national or universal healthcare system. 

What does an ACA compliant plan mean?

An ACA compliant group plan is often found on college campuses when both domestic and international students are on one plan, but it doesn’t have to be. ACA coverage requires the plan to be filed in that state and to also meet the “minimum essential healthcare coverage”. The 10 benefit requirements are:

  1. Ambulatory patient services (outpatient care you get without being admitted to a hospital) 
  2. Emergency services
  3. Hospitalization (like surgery and overnight stays)
  4. Pregnancy, maternity, and newborn care (both before and after birth)
  5. Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment (this includes counseling and psychotherapy)
  6. Prescription drugs 
  7. Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices (services and devices to help people with injuries, disabilities, or chronic conditions gain or recover mental and physical skills)
  8. Laboratory services 
  9. Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management 
  10. Pediatric services, including oral and vision care (but adult dental and vision coverage aren’t essential health benefits)

In addition to these 10 requirements, these plans are also required to include coverage for both birth control ( and breastfeeding ( These plans must also provide unlimited coverage, pre-existing coverage from day one, including wellness, and maternity must be covered the same as any other illness.

Due to rising costs, many schools have decided to look at alternate options since prices are on the rise and students struggle to afford to pay the high costs. And since international students and scholars don’t need ACA compliant coverage, schools have more flexibility to build a plan more in line with the needs of international students, both in terms of budget and benefits.

What does it mean if I don’t have an ACA compliant plan?

Many schools and students have been questioning how essential an ACA compliant plan is as the costs are often thousands and thousands of dollars every year. But schools may appreciate the comprehensive benefits an ACA plan might bring.

For plans that are not ACA, you can customize the plan specifically to meet the unique needs of your international student population (which may or may not include those essential benefits discussed above). This means you can still have unlimited coverage, if you think that’s appropriate – or you can have wellness included. However, you do not have to. By being able to customize your plan, you can get the benefits you want with more flexibility to customize the plan. 

What are the advantages of a non-ACA plan?

A non-ACA plan allows you to customize your insurance plan based on the benefits you need. Many times these carriers are more in tune with the unique needs of your student or scholar population and may also include:

  • Emergency medical evacuation – required on a J visa!
  • Repatriation of remains – required on a J visa!
  • Emergency reunion
  • 24-7 multilingual travel assistance

You will also find that these plans are much less expensive and have a lower out of pocket cost (the deductible, copays and coinsurance tend to be lower) when students use the plan.

It is important no matter the plan, that you understand what it does and doesn’t cover. Reviewing the master policy is essential to understanding your policy. Ask for it and do not rely solely on the brochure. Once reviewing this document, carefully review the exclusions to know what is and what isn’t covered. 

What questions should you ask about your insurance proposal?

If you are reviewing an insurance plan, it’s important to review the policy in full and know what it does and doesn’t cover. Questions you can ask include:

  • Provider Network – How much do you pay inside and outside the network? Are there providers nearby and what does the claim process look like?
  • Coverage Area – Where are my students covered (in the state, throughout the US, or outside the student’s home country?)?
  • Insurer – Who is insuring the plan and what is their rating by A.M. Best or Standard and Poor’s?
  • Claims – Where are the claims processed? How long should it take? Is there a way for students to follow up on their claim? Is it by reimbursement or will it be paid directly to the provider?
  • Benefits and Exclusions – Look through the policy and be sure to understand the benefits and exclusions to understand how your policy will be paying out claims. When in doubt, ask!

If you or your organization is looking at group plan options, our team would be happy to help provide you with a customized proposal for your school. To get started, please request a quote and our University Relations Team will be in touch with you shortly.

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Telemedicine Services for Your International Students Group Insurance Plan

November 4th, 2022 by Alejandra Ramirez

Nowadays, a lot of products and services have turned to technology to offer online solutions to their customers, and healthcare is no exception. In this post, we will outline when telemedicine services are a better option for your international students or program participants to seek medical care. We will also discuss the variety of telemedicine companies we work with in case you are interested in adding one of these services to your existing group plan or if you would like to get a quote for a plan that includes these services.

When to use telehealth services

Some facilities now encourage patients to use their online services instead of going in person.

Social distancing helped us be more open to receiving online healthcare services when in-person care was not available. However, it has also shown us how convenient they are as we don’t need to drive to a facility full of other sick people and wait for a doctor to become available if we don’t have an appointment. Typically, online telemedicine services are offered 24/7 and all you need is a wi-fi connection and either a computer or phone.

If your international students or participants have a non-urgent medical need that they would like to receive care for such as flu symptoms, allergies, mild illnesses or injuries, etc. they can choose to use the telemedicine services that are offered at a lower cost than their deductible (if their plan has one) and sometimes even for free with some of our group plans.

What to expect during a telemedicine visit

Typically, students and participants can expect to be able to speak to a licensed physician within minutes after requesting a visit during business hours and they can choose between a phone or video consultation.

Once the phone or online visit begins, the physician will review their medical history and ask questions about their symptoms and their current condition to give a diagnosis and treatment plan. This process typically takes around 5-30 minutes.
Telemedicine doctors are able to issue prescriptions if needed and will send them to a pharmacy of the participants choice for pick up.
If the condition requires additional or in-person care, the telemedicine provider will refer the participant to the nearest urgent care center or emergency room if needed.
Please note that if the insured needs following in-person visits and treatment, they will be subject to the corresponding out-of-pocket expenses depending on the plan such as deductible, co-pays, coinsurance, etc.

Telemedicine and Online Counseling Services

We have partnered with some of the most reputable telehealth providers to offer immediate reliable healthcare solutions to your students and participants 24/7 no matter where they are. Please see below for a few examples of the additional online services we offer:

General Medicine

The companies we have partnered with offer 24/7 care for non-emergency conditions like cold & flu, sinus infections, allergies, and more. Medical care can be available in both English and Spanish with the option to request an interpreter for all other languages if needed depending on the telemedicine service provider.

If your students or program participants need coverage in the US we offer the option to add one of the following service providers depending on the plan.

If your students or program participants travel anywhere outside the US they can have access to telemedicine through one of the following service providers depending on the plan.

* Only available in specific countries.

Some of our group plans include this type of service at no cost or at a low copay for participants! You may contact your account manager for more information about your current plan benefits. If you would like to get a quote for a plan that includes this service, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Mental Health

Online counseling services allow students to schedule a visit with a therapist or psychiatrist wherever they are for challenges like depression, anxiety, stress, and many others. Therapists are typically available by phone or video 7 days a week and the hours may vary depending on the different platforms. Our plans offer this type of service through the following companies.

This type of service can be offered to participants for free, for a limited number of visits, or at a low copay depending on the plan that you choose.

You can contact us to learn more about a specific telehealth service or to get a quote for a plan that includes one or more of these services.

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month 

September 1st, 2022 by Sutherland Beever

As schools in the United States begin to hum with the excitement of a shiny new school year and the rhythmic sounds of students’ laughter and voices once again echo down long hallways, it’s easy to fall into the mindset of thinking that all students are elated to be back in the classroom.

While most students have been looking forward to the newfound freedom and experiences that the school year offers, others are crippled with overwhelming amounts of anxiety, homesickness, and general feelings of hopelessness. 

Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in the United States and is estimated to be the second leading cause of death among young adults, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. 

With September being Suicide Prevention Awareness month, the team here at felt called to help raise recognition for this important cause and help ensure that young people everywhere are given the resources they need during such a challenging time of their lives.

As administrators, teachers, and role models for the next generation, the adults that help mold young minds hold an incredible power – to help ensure students receive the support and help that they need. Below you will find a great deal of information to help identify students who may be suicidal and resources to offer any students that fall into this category. This information is provided by the National Institute of Mental Health.

Warning signs that a student may be at risk of attempting suicide: 

  • Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves
  • Talking about feeling empty or hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions
  • Feeling unbearable emotional or physical pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Giving away important possessions
  • Talking or thinking about death often

Other serious warning signs that a student may be at risk for attempting suicide include:

  • Displaying extreme mood swings, suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy
  • Making a plan or looking for ways to kill themselves, such as searching for lethal methods online, stockpiling pills, or buying a gun
  • Talking about feeling great guilt or shame
  • Using alcohol or drugs more often
  • Acting anxious or agitated
  • Changing eating or sleeping habits
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge

24/7 Resources:

988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline
Call or text 988
Chat at
Crisis Text Line
Text “HELLO” to 741741

How to Help Hurting Students:

The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the anxiety that younger generations are facing, and that combined with homesickness and culture shock can be a deadly combination. Use this blog as a starting point to help keep suicide prevention and awareness at the forefront of your thoughts this semester. 

Mental Health, Alcohol and Insurance

August 4th, 2022 by Angela Perrilliat

Pandemic pandemonium

The COVID-19 pandemic has been rough on everyone, and people began coping in different ways. Some people began exercising extensively, while others started on their journey to become the best bread maker they could be. However, some people focused their stress and anxiety into less healthy coping mechanisms, such as drinking or doing other various drugs. 

Pre-pandemic perception

According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 53% of full-time college aged students ages 18-22 reported drinking alcohol in the previous 30 days, and 33% reported engaging in binge drinking. Binge drinking is defined as drinking alcohol with the intent to raise your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) to .08 or above. This is about 5 drinks in 2 hours for males, and 4 drinks in 2 hours for females. 

Note: Although this study was conducted on students between the ages of 18 and 22, it is important to note that 21 is the minimum age for alcohol possession and consumption in the United States!

On-pandemic status

Even though drinking was used for coping with the stress and anxiety that COVID-19 brought, the statistics above dropped off in 2020 and 2021 as colleges and universities had been having online classes rather than in-person learning. In addition, social distancing may have made college parties fewer and further between, as people generally did not feel comfortable in large groups. 

Post-pandemic status 

With on-campus learning resuming this year, in addition to the COVID-19 vaccine being widely available, these statistics may begin to resume as new domestic and international students leave home and begin to experience college life in the United States. Also, students may continue their current alcohol use or form different habits around drinking as they begin to take part in more social activities. 

Long-term effects of alcohol use

Using alcohol may alleviate anxiety and stress in the short term, but prolonged alcohol use can be detrimental to students. 

The long-term mental effects of alcohol use can result in: 

  • Memory loss
  • Higher risk of anxiety and depression
  • Mood swings or changes in personality
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Learning difficulties
  • Loss of attention span
  • Diminished brain matter (which in worst case scenarios may result in trouble with speaking and understanding language, dementia, seizures and/or stroke)

As you may see, most of the symptoms can really affect a person physically and mentally, and impair many abilities that you need to have as a student, such as memory, good attention span and learning. It is highly encouraged that you get help if you drink regularly and notice any of these symptoms or if family or friends feel concerned for your well-being and bring this issue to you. Even if you are physically well, mental health issues may bring you physical problems and become a very big worry.

Insurance and inebriation  

Besides long-term symptoms on the brain and illnesses (such as liver disease, pancreatitis, chronic gastritis, etc.), there are immediate risks such as bicycle/car accidents caused by driving under the influence or other physical accidents due to numbness in the extremities or poor coordination. It is important to note that many international student insurance plans specifically do not cover injuries sustained while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This is often listed in the exclusions of your plan, and as always, we encourage you to read through all the benefits and exclusions of your plan.

However, our student plans do include coverage for alcohol and substance abuse treatment as a mental health benefit! As mentioned above, your well-being is of the utmost importance and you can ask for help or counseling at any time.

So, don’t forget! We at ISI wish everyone a safe and healthy return to campus as things slowly start to return to normal, and if you are going to have some drinks with friends or campus colleagues, try to do it safely. 

This video teaches international students how to deal with drugs and alcohol on college campuses including an overview of the laws, how to act responsible, consequences, and how to get help.
Please visit for more information.

Trip Cancellation Insurance – Considerations for Study Abroad

June 30th, 2022 by Sally McLeod

As countries loosen border restrictions and the world begins to navigate a new normal surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, many are beginning to revisit that long awaited trip outside the country that may have been planned or even canceled during the last few years. The same goes for colleges and universities revisiting their study abroad programs and educational trips that have been put on hold as decisions are now being made to ramp up travel for the upcoming academic year.

While travel is becoming easier than in the past few years, it’s important to recognize that there are new obstacles that require additional caution as travel still isn’t what it once was. New protocols have been put into place since the pandemic began and it’s important to familiarize yourself with every country’s travel regulations and restrictions in addition to keeping in mind that despite vaccinations, COVID-19 and its variants continue to spread and infect people across the globe.

So, what can be done to ensure your study abroad trip goes as smoothly as planned, despite these additional challenges? One trend we’ve noticed is the need for trip cancellation insurance and the increase in inquiries from individuals and schools alike. We’re here to break down just what trip cancellation insurance is in addition to the acronym that has become increasingly popularized, CFAR.

What is trip cancellation insurance?

Trip cancellation insurance is exactly that – insurance in case you need to cancel your trip. Trip cancellation insurance protects your non-refundable travel expenses in the event something unexpected were to happen, whether it’s a traffic accident on the way to the airport, stolen travel documents, an illness or injury, death of a family member and so on. Depending on the plan, you can be reimbursed up to 100% of your trip cost if you need to cancel, in addition to other travel benefits. Additional benefits on these plans may also include: 

  • Baggage protection and reimbursement
  • Replacement for lost passports or other travel documentation
  • Expenses paid for replacement items if your baggage is delayed
  • Emergency Medical Evacuation and Repatriation

Trip cancellation vs. travel insurance

While these two terms can be interchangeable, they aren’t necessarily the same thing. Travel insurance may also be referring to health and travel insurance, which is different from trip cancellation insurance. While you’ll want to be sure you have a health insurance plan in place for your students while they are abroad, it’s important to also familiarize yourself with any additional benefits on a health and travel insurance plan to see if you need trip cancellation insurance as additional protection.

Is trip cancellation necessary?

You may feel that your health and travel insurance plan provides enough protection for other trip related costs and that trip cancellation insurance isn’t necessary. Oftentimes, health and travel insurance includes benefits for travel expenses such as lost checked luggage, trip interruption, travel delays and traditionally also includes coverage for Emergency Medical Evacuation and Repatriation of Remains. Health and Travel insurance is generally very affordable when going outside the United States and starts around $1.00 per day for comprehensive coverage, while trip cancellation insurance premiums depend on the cost of the trip itself and can range anywhere from about 4-10% of the total non-refundable trip cost. 

You may not need to purchase a trip cancellation plan if many of your pre-paid deposits for your trip are refundable or you have purchased all flights and accommodations with enough flexibility and coverage, that trip cancellation coverage isn’t worth the additional expense. 

The fine print

While trip cancellation plans offer coverage for the non-refundable expenses of your trip in the event you need to cancel, there are oftentimes still restrictions under which you can cancel and be refunded – and at what level you will be reimbursed. This has become a hot topic of discussion since the rise of COVID-19, as many trip cancellation plans have exclusions for pandemic related expenses. Luckily, this is where a Cancel for Any Reason add-on found on many trip cancellation plans comes into play and can be a great resolution for this ongoing issue. 


CFAR, otherwise known as Cancel for Any Reason, has become the most coveted component in trip cancellation plans since the beginning of the pandemic. This benefit is ideal for avoiding strict guidelines found in other trip cancellation plans, and oftentimes covers up to 75% of non-refundable expenses and can be found as an add on or purchased for an additional cost to many trip cancellation plans.

CFAR is an important benefit to have to avoid pandemic related exclusions, and allows you the comfort and flexibility knowing that you are not limited in why you need to cancel. It’s important to be aware that the CFAR benefit cannot be added on at any time and you’ll oftentimes need to purchase this within a certain period of time (usually 20 days) after your initial trip deposit.

The CFAR benefit, while allowing for ultimate flexibility, comes at a price and generally will increase your trip cancellation coverage significantly. It’s also important to note that while you can “Cancel for Any Reason” you generally will be required to cancel at least 48 hours prior to your departure.

Aside from a few items to be aware of, the CFAR benefit allows you to be the most protected and flexible with any trip and is a great option to consider as you begin to revisit and plan your upcoming study abroad programs!

Find out more about our Trip Cancellation plans and decide which is best for you and your program! 

What’s the difference between extending, renewing and buying a new international student insurance plan?

May 24th, 2022 by Jennifer Frankel

Do you have students who enroll in their insurance plan but stop coverage over the summer or re-enroll in a new plan each semester? Alternatively, do you have students who keep their insurance plan active year after year? The way you and your students manage their insurance can impact their coverage and how existing conditions they have may be covered.

Extensions, renewals or enrolling in a new policy may at first glance seem like interchangeable insurance jargon, but they are not. It is important to understand the differences and what impact they may have on your students’ coverage. In today’s blog, we will demystify these terms to help you better understand their insurance plan and how to best administer it.

To begin our discussion, we will first look at the three terms and what they mean:


When a student extends their insurance plan, it means they are adding more time to the end of their policy. Typically, the policy number stays the same but the end date will change to a later point in time. In cases like these, students may have to pay a nominal administrative fee to extend their plan in addition to the cost for the additional coverage. 


Similar to extending a policy, a renewal will also add more time to the end of the policy and will typically keep the same policy number. What makes the renewal distinct from extensions is that you are finishing a certificate period year and starting a new one. That means that some benefits that say “per certificate period year” will start over in their benefits. An example would be if you had an insurance plan that had $500,000 coverage per certificate period year. When you renew the plan, the $500,000 limit will start over. If you are extending an existing plan, you would continue to have the same $500,000 coverage minus any payment in claims.

New Policy

While this isn’t an official insurance term, it’s important to clarify that a new policy is when a student enrolls in a new plan by completing a new application. Generally, a new policy number is given and a new ID card is issued.

Now that we understand what all three terms mean, the next step is to understand what the benefits are on their international student insurance plan, particularly how pre-existing conditions are handled.

A pre-existing condition is essentially any condition that has happened before the start of the insurance plan. There is typically a look back period and international student insurance plans may have a waiting period before pre-existing conditions are covered such as a 12 or six months. There are some plans that may not cover pre-existing conditions at all, others that may limit the coverage for pre-existing conditions, or still others that may cover pre-existing conditions from day one. So what makes a covered condition different from a pre-existing condition? As long as the condition is covered on the plan, the difference will be when the accident happened and the dates of coverage of the plan.

For simplicity purposes, let’s take these examples:

Example 1. A student has coverage from August – December and they break their leg in September. This condition would be considered an eligible medical expense and would be covered.

Example 2. A student has coverage from August – December and they break their leg in July. This condition would be considered a pre-existing condition since the accident happened before the plan started.

Using these same rules of thumb, this can be used to show what happens if a student buys a new plan versus extending/renewing a new policy. Let’s take Example 1 where a student has a plan from August – December and they break their leg in September, the medical expenses would be covered the same as any other illness/injury until the end of the policy in December. Now, let’s say the student extends coverage through until next August. Any medical expenses for this injury would continue to be covered since it’s the same plan. If they plan to study another year and they renew their plan, their leg would continue to be covered because, again, it’s the same plan.

However, let’s take the same Example 1. The student has a plan from August – December and they break their leg in September, the medical expenses would be covered the same as any other illness/injury until the end of the policy in December. Let’s say the student decides to buy a new plan that starts in January and goes until August. In a case like this, the student would have completed a new application, been issued a new ID card with a new policy number. If the student had ongoing medical treatment for the broken leg on the new plan in February, this broken leg would now be considered a pre-existing condition and may not be covered or may be subject to a waiting period.

So if that’s the case, why wouldn’t a student always extend or renew their plan? There are a few reasons for this:

  • Breaks – in some cases, students may not want to pay for coverage during winter break or summer break, so they will stop coverage so that they do not have to pay for insurance during those breaks.
  • Administrative Fees – sometimes there is a small fee the student must pay each time they extend or renew, so they may choose to enroll in a new plan to avoid those fees (those fees are often $5 but depends on the carrier).
  • Renewal Premium – rates will often increase year to year when a student renews the same plan so it might be more affordable to buy a new plan rather than keeping their existing plan active.
  • Convenience – sometimes it’s just easier to go through the application than to log into their account to extend coverage.

No matter the reason, it’s important to understand the coverage of your student’s policy, how to administer it, and what the implications are. Each insurance plan is different so it’s important to contact the insurance company to be sure you and your students understand how this all works to avoid any unnecessary surprises and expenses. 

If you have questions or need help, please contact our insurance team at

How To Negotiate Medical Bills With Providers

April 5th, 2022 by Sutherland Beever

Unpaid medical bills are daunting, and while it would be easier for students to collect unopened invoices in a shoebox and hide them forever under the bed, it’s best to tackle them head-on.

This blog will help you help your international students manage unpaid medical bills in 4 straightforward steps.

Step One: Complete a Medical Release Form & Set Expectations Appropriately

Due to HIPPA laws in the United States, as an international advisor, you won’t be able to call and discuss any of your student’s medical bills or health history without their OK. 

The hospital or doctor’s office will likely have a form that the student will need to complete in order to allow you to discuss their protected medical history. Help the student find the form (they’re usually located on the provider’s website) and let the student know that you’re here to help, but resolving unpaid bills will need to be a team effort.

There are a few different outcomes with any unpaid medical bills:

  1. Worst Case Scenario: The provider may not offer any reductions and will continue to charge the full amount due.
  2. Better Scenario: The total amount of the bills is reduced by at least a small percentage.
  3. Best Scenario: The bills are written off completely, meaning the student doesn’t owe a dime. 

Step Two: Gather The Bills and Ensure They’re Correct  

Before you’re able to help the student negotiate the bills it’s important that you can paint a full picture of what is owed and to whom. Encourage the student to provide you with a copy of each and every bill that they’ve received, along with copies of any documentation from the student’s insurance company stating why the bills weren’t covered. You’ll also want to ensure you have copies of each of the Explanation of Benefits (or EOBs for short) from the insurance company, showing why a bill was denied. 

Once all of the documents are collected, take the time to review them in detail. The people that work in the billing department can make mistakes from time to time and those mistakes could mean duplicate charges. Ensure that the student was only billed for treatment that they received and only billed once for each service. 

Step Three: Do Your Research

Now that the necessary form is on file for you to discuss the medical bills on behalf of your student, and you understand the total amount of the debt it’s time to do some research.

It’s common knowledge that providers grossly overcharge for services, so look online to compare how much the student was charged vs. what the average amount would be. Being able to confidently iterate to providers that you know they’re overcharging for services, if that is the case, can be helpful during your negotiation (that’s step 4).

Here are some examples:

  • If your student was charged $100,000 for an appendectomy, but the national average is closer to $30,000 you can use this as ammunition during your conversation with the provider in the hopes that they’ll lower the overall amount of the debt.
  • Hospitals can often charge hundreds of dollars for a pregnancy test, 

It is also important to be able to accurately explain a student’s financial situation or inability to pay for the medical bills. Have a conversation with a student about what their home life looks like and what amount, if any, they’d be able to pay towards the medical bills each month. 

Providers will oftentimes accept a lower amount than what was invoiced if the student is able to offer a lump sum payment. Be sure to inquire about this as well before calling the provider to negotiate the debt. See what amount, if any, the student and their family would be able to pay to get rid of the bills once and for all.

Step Four: Call the Provider(s)

Now you are ready for action! Gather all of the information that you’ve collected thus far and give the provider a ring. Just like at colleges or universities, most hospitals have a financial aid office – and it’s the job of the people that work there to help lower-income patients afford their medical treatment. Rather than calling the number on the bill, first look at the provider’s website to see if they have a financial aid office.

Here is everything that you’ll want to have available during the call:

  1. Each of the bills 
  2. The dollar amounts that are normally charged for any given service and any errors that have been found within the bills
  3. The dollar amount that the student could afford to pay each month towards their debt.
  4. The lump-sum amount that the student is willing to pay the provider to get rid of the balance completely.

Sometimes providers will ask that a student writes what is called a Letter of Hardship to explain their financial situation and why their debts should be reduced or eliminated. If this is the case, take all of the documentation and information that has been collected and help the student write a letter asking the provider to kindly eliminate the debt. The more heartfelt and detailed the letter, the better! 

Regardless if you and the student are able to have a conversation over the phone or if you have to write a letter, be sure to check back in with the provider 30 days or so down the road for the resolution. Don’t expect them to contact the student again – it’s now the student’s job to ensure that the provider is reviewing their request. 

An In-Depth Look at ISI’s Administrator Resources

February 23rd, 2022 by Leah Hammond

Here at International Student Insurance, our main priority is not only to provide high quality insurance options for international students, but also to make sure these students, as well as their colleges and universities, fully understand the coverage they are purchasing. Insurance in the United States can be confusing, and with the added stress of being in a new place, taking classes, and making new friends, health insurance is likely the last thing on your student’s minds. This is why we’ve created a number of resources (available for free!) that will help students and administrators navigate their way through the intricate world of health insurance. From video resources and training programs, to customized landing pages and student orientations, this blog post will explore the different resources we offer that schools and students can utilize to understand their health insurance in greater detail. 

Video Resources

Arguably our most popular resource, we offer a variety of different videos on topics related to the U.S. Healthcare System and Insurance Products, Emotional Wellness, and Sexual Assualt Awareness. All of our videos are available at no cost, and can be accessed by students through our website, or embedded on your school’s website directly. 

U.S. Healthcare System and Health Insurance Videos 

We all know how complicated the U.S. Healthcare System can be, so we’ve created a video specifically designed to help international students better understand the ins and outs of seeking treatment while in the United States. This video includes tips for students before they leave their home country, and includes common words and phrases to help make understanding healthcare in the U.S. easier. 

We also have video resources that provide an overview of two of our most popular health insurance plans – the Student Secure plan and the Atlas Travel Medical plan. These videos are great resources available to help students understand how the coverage works before they purchase. 

Sexual Assualt Awarness and Emotional Wellness Videos 

Along with insurance focused video resources, we’ve also created resources that focus on different challenges international students may face while in the United States. 

We explore Emotional Wellness through videos on Mental Health Awareness that look at common warning signs, myths and stigmas, and ways to seek treatment, Culture Shock, with stories from International Students sharing their experiences when arriving in the United States, as well as COVID-19 and how the pandemic has impacted their lives emotionally. 

We also look at the topic of Sexual Assault Awarness with a video resource that dives into the concept of consent, how to protect yourself, and what to do if sexual assault occurs, as well as a video interviewing International Students about their views on sexual assault and the differences culturally around the globe

Facebook and YouTube Live 

ISI is regularly creating new videos on our Facebook and Youtube pages to keep students and administrators engaged and provide them with important information on insurance and wellness topics. On the insurance side, our Facebook and Youtube Live videos include topics such as OPT and J-1 insurance options, how to file claims, locating in-network providers, and understanding your school’s insurance requirements. We also have videos with more wellness based subjects, and will sometimes feature an expert on the topic, like videos on healthy eating habits, fitness, stress free budgeting tips, and the importance of sleep. 

Follow us on Facebook and Subscribe to our YouTube Channel for first access to these video resources! 

Our video resources were designed specifically for students and administrators to help with day to day challenges that international students may face. They are available at no cost, and you are welcome to share them with your students or to add them to your school’s website. 

Training Programs 

What first started as simple video resources on Sexual Assault Awareness and Mental Health Awareness has now turned into two full training guides on the subjects. These training guides are available to schools at no cost, and can be a great addition to your International Student Orientations to help discuss these sensitive topics. 

Sexual Assault Awareness Training Guide 

Addressing the intricacies of sexual assault, the concept of consent, and Title IX with your international students can be complicated enough given the cultural differences surrounding the topic. In partnership with RAINN, we have developed a full training program that includes a powerpoint presentation and a proctor guide to go along with it, interactive activities to get students engaged, video resources, and a student handout. The training was designed to be done in one-hour, but can be adjusted to fit different time constraints. 

Mental Health Awareness Training Guide 

As emotional and mental health continued to grow as a hot topic across schools throughout the United States, we noticed an ever growing need for more resources focused on International Students and mental health. The training guide focuses on culture shock, stress, anxiety, and depression, and addresses the stigmas and barriers that international students face in seeking help. To create this comprehensive training program, we worked with the Center for Cross-Cultural Student Emotional Wellness at Massachusetts General Hospital. This training guide includes the same features as our Sexual Assault Awarness Training Program and can be completed in one hour or less. 

Best Practices Guide 

We have created a Best Practices Guide specifically for international education professionals on selecting and managing health insurance for their international students. This 30-page guide provides international educators with a detailed overview of the U.S. healthcare market and what key factors you should consider when choosing the best health insurance options for your students. 

Customized Landing Pages 

We offer free customized landing pages on our website that will direct students to purchase the correct plans that have been approved by their school. This will ensure students are purchasing the right coverage, and comes with an array of benefits for school administrators including: 

  • A one stop shop where you can direct your students to purchase their insurance coverage, 
  • The ability to include your school’s branding and logo, 
  • The option to show the plans, coverage dates and levels you’ve selected, 
  • The option to show predefined coverage periods, 
  • The ability to include specific wording and instructions for your students. 

International Student Insurance Orientations 

In order to make sure students really understand their health insurance coverage, our team at ISI would be happy to set up an orientation session to help educate your students about insurance and the U.S. healthcare system. 

This is usually something that is done if a school recommends one plan to all of their students, and it can be a pre-recorded video that can be shared with the students, or a live online interactive session that is scheduled during international student orientation. 

At ISI, we take pride in providing resources not only to our students, but to the administrators as well, that will help make the world of insurance a little less complicated. All of the resources we offer are free of charge, and can be accessed through our website. Our customer service team is available to answer any questions you may have about these resources, and can help with creating a landing page, scheduling an orientation, sending brochures, and more! 

Questions? Please contact us for more information! 

Health Insurance Group Plans for International Students

January 4th, 2022 by Jennifer Frankel

The importance for group health insurance for international students and travelers has been heightened during the COVID pandemic’s unrelenting presence throughout the world. It has never been more important to make sure you have a solid health insurance plan that will meet the unique needs of your international student body. 

In today’s blog, we will discuss the importance of group health insurance as well as changes in the industry that you can incorporate to better serve your international students.

Why A Group Plan

The pandemic has placed an increasing importance on health insurance for international students. Unlike other visa categories, international students on a F1 or M1 visa are not required by the US Department of State to have health insurance and instead leave the requirements up to their school. Because of this, schools have various ways of handling health insurance from requiring their international students to enroll on a selected group insurance plan to not requiring or recommending any insurance plan at all.

While the approach may vary, the importance of health insurance has never been more important for international students. The United States continues to be the most expensive country in the world for health care. The average emergency room visit costs, for example, $2,200 on average, according to UnitedHealthcare (the largest insurance carrier in the U.S.). Add to that the increasing medical inflation year after year and the additional COVID procedures that are further increasing medical costs, and your students may be more financially vulnerable than ever before.

There are many advantages to having a health insurance group plan for international students including:

You Know Your Plan & Who is Enrolled

All students are on one plan that has been vetted and approved by your school’s administration. You know that your plan is solid, that it meets the needs of your students, and that students will be able to go to a US-provider without having to pay and be reimbursed. 

Simplified Communication

Having one plan makes it easier to know who to contact at your insurance company, familiarize yourself with the procedures (like, what do you do in case of a medical emergency), and simplifies communication with your staff and students.

Dedicated Account Manager

Health insurance group plans often have an account manager able to support staff and administrators managing their group plan. At ISI, we provide every group client with a dedicated account manager who is on hand and able to assist with anything that comes up from enrollment questions, claims help, emergency assist cases, orientation, and the renewal process. It can be helpful to have someone in charge of your plan and that you can always reach out to, especially in a time of need.

Enrollment Tool

One area of simplification on a group health insurance plan is that you can enroll all of your international students instead of having to find out each student’s insurance coverage dates and payment mode. With a group plan, schools will enroll their students for the correct period and include that cost into the student’s tuition. We also have the option for students to pay for their plan, but administrators can view enrollments through our proprietary enrollment system.

Group Zone

While administrators will be able to fully administer and manage enrollments through the enrollment tool, international students will have their own insurance portal as well. This insurance portal, known as our Group Zones, allows international students to learn about the US healthcare system, find providers, download their documents, and track claims.

Changes in the Industry

The last couple of years of this pandemic has led to fascinating changes in the US healthcare system that will likely continue for the foreseeable future. These benefits have grown in importance and can be included on your group health insurance plan, these include:

COVID coverage

With variants spurring new spikes in cases, it is important to ensure that your group health insurance plan covers COVID-19. This should include if a student needs medical attention or is hospitalized. Some plans may also cover vaccines and/or COVID tests, so be sure to understand what is and what isn’t covered.


Telemedicine was gaining popularity before COVID, but its acceptance and recognition really emerged during the pandemic where providers and patients were cautious when it came to in-person treatment. Telemedicine allows students to simply call or video call with a provider for minor illnesses or injuries. The provider can often provide treatment over the phone and even prescribe medication, or in specific cases they may refer the student to an in-person provider for emergency care. This makes getting treatment quick and easy, and international students can do this from the comfort of home. Many plans either include this as an integrated part of the policy or may allow students to choose the telemedicine service of their choice. For more on telemedicine and why it’s important on a health insurance group plan, please read our recent blogs on telehealth.

Mental Health & Telecounseling

With international students more isolated, mental health has been a growing issue that has captured the attention of many university officials. An increase in the levels of anxiety and depression has been growing, and can be exacerbated when there are required quarantines or shut downs. While many schools have a counseling center on campus, some students may be unable or unwilling to use these services – and there are often longer than usual wait times. Integrating telecounseling can be another way to reach these students where licensed counselors can work with students directly. 

LifeWorks is one of our newer services that can be integrated into any ISI group insurance plan. LifeWorks My SSP connects students with telecounseling support in their native language and cultural context, and is designed to complement academic institutions’ existing on-campus services.

If you are interested in a group plan with these services, learn more about ISI health insurance group plan and how to integrate these benefits on your plan.

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