International Educator - March/April 2013 - 54
By Dana Wilkie
The new U.S. law on health insurance not only affects all
citizens, but international students as well.
AST SPRING, a German student attending a U.S. university might have paid as little as $200
for a school-sponsored plan that satisﬁed her J-1 visa requirements that she buy medical
insurance. The plan may have oﬀered minimal beneﬁts, but for an undergraduate living
on a shoestring, it probably seemed like a good deal. “Most of those plans oﬀered very
substandard coverage, as students found out, when they submitted claims on their plan,”
says Paul Clancy at Boston University.
Administrators fear there may be two
unintended repercussions to the new law:
fewer international students willing to attend
U.S. institutions because of the cost of
mandatory insurance and many U.S. students
heading overseas with insurance that federal law
now considers substandard.
While much of the new law’s repercussions remain
uncertain, administrators fear there may be at least
two: fewer international students willing to attend U.S.
institutions because of the cost of mandatory insurance, and many U.S. students heading overseas with
insurance that federal law now considers substandard.
“You’ve got international students coming into
the U.S. who think of themselves—like most young
people—as invulnerable, so they typically buy very
inexpensive plans with very little coverage,” said Leta
Finch, national practice leader at Aon Risk Solutions,
which writes insurance policies for university students.
“Now, they have to pay quite a bit more for coverage
that they may feel they don’t need or want. If I want to
INTERNATIONAL EDUCATOR M A R + A P R . 13
This spring, the same student may be paying $1,700
or higher, by some estimates, under the Patient Protection and Aﬀordable Care Act (ACA)—the health
insurance reform measure passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by President Obama in March 2010.
The law’s 900-plus pages make only ﬂeeting reference to domestic and international students, leaving
university and college administrators—not to mention insurers, students, and their families—scouring
the new law for hints of how things have changed for
the 764,495 people who come to the United States
each year to pursue higher education, as well as the
273,996 from the United States studying abroad
(Open Doors, 2012).