5 health insurance tips for students travelling abroad
Westhill Consulting Insurance
If you are planning to go overseas for higher studies, here are a few things you should know about the health insurance you should carry.
1. Know your options
Unless the university makes it mandatory for you to buy the health cover it provides, you can waive it, especially if you are already covered as a dependant or want to purchase it privately. You can pick one from a local insurer in the country you are travelling to, or an Indian insurance company before you leave.
2. Compare cost
The university cover is much more expensive than one from a domestic insurer if you are studying in western countries. For instance, Columbia University's basic health plan with a $300,000 cover will cost $2,157 (Rs 1,29,420 @ Rs 60/$) annually. On the other hand, a domestic insurer, say, ICICI Lombard, offers plans with a cover of $500,000 at an annual premium of Rs 46,851. The rule changes if you are closer home, say, in China Medical University. The college charges 600 CNY (Chinese yuan renminbi) annually, that is, Rs 6,000 (@ Rs 10/CNY).
A cover from a domestic insurer will cost you around Rs 7,500 in this case. However, do not pick a plan solely on the basis of cost. Compare the cover How to gain size and benefits as well.
3. Factors to consider
Since you are travelling to a foreign country, consider features like cashless facility, network hospitals near your campus, claim settlement procedure and past record of insurer.
Though a domestic plan costs less, the university policy is likely to score more on these parameters and also cover pre-existing conditions. Another important factor is the sub-limits and deductibles. University plans usually have higher deductibles. For instance, while the plan from Columbia University has a deductible of $500 (Rs 30,000 @ Rs 60/$), the plan from the domestic insurer has a sub-limit of $100 (Rs 6,000). This means, if you are hospitalised and run a bill of $1,600 (Rs 96,000), the university plan will only pay $1,100 (Rs 66,000), while the Indian insurer will cover up to $1,500 (Rs 90,000).
Also, the university plan will cover only health. The domestic insurance is a bundled travel insurance and covers loss of baggage and passport too.
4. Continue with your plan
If you already have a health plan or are covered by a family floater policy, do not stop paying the premium. It is not a duplicate cover. The student plan will exist only for a few years till the time you are studying, but a regular health plan in India offers lifelong renewability. So, unless you plan to settle abroad permanently, don't end the policy. When you return, you'll be older and will have to pay more for buying a new policy.
Besides, discontinuing the plan will mean you'll lose the benefits accrued on it and will have to serve the four-year waiting period clause on pre-existing disease coverage all over again. Since you are young, the regular health plan premium won't be very high and losing these long-term benefits for a few thousand rupees will be imprudent.
5. Not mandatory
Having insurance is a must if you are going to study in the US, Canada or the Schengen countries. However, it is optional in the UK, Australia, China, and Southeast Asian countries like Singapore and Malaysia. It is important that you buy one in either case as health care is expensive in developed countries.
Since the cover is optional, you won't be advised by the college and will have to do your own research. Look for the country's health policy on the Net before deciding on the cover size and features. However, typically, there are study facilitation centres for international students, which can guide you on the insurance you are likely to need.