International Educator - March/April 2013 - 58
self-funded plans—like the one operated by
the University of California system—institutions provide insurance with their own
funds, rather than contract with an insurance company for coverage. They collect
premiums, invest them, and assume direct
risk for payment of claims.
In addition, the ACA allows international students—until they turn 26—to
be covered under the insurance plan of a
parent who can claim the student as a dependent. The problem, says Finch, is that
“we’ve seen people walk into U.S. universities with marginal notes on a Xeroxed piece
of paper saying they have health care, and
it’s not proof of coverage.”
HTH Worldwide writes health insurance policies for foreign students coming
to the United States. Gerry Schaafsma,
HTH’s chief investment officer, said until
it becomes clear whether the ACA affects
education abroad students, schools may de-
“That such uncertainty
two years after the
ACA was signed into law
is testament to how
complicated the law is,
and to how little
it says about
fer to their state legislatures, or their own
judgment. In some cases, state laws, such
as in Washington state, don’t allow public schools to mandate medical coverage.
While the ACA supercedes these prohibitions for students studying in the United
States, schools may decide that state law
still applies to U.S. students abroad.
“If state lawmakers say you can’t mandate that someone has an insurance policy,
then some students might think that at public schools, they don’t have to have a policy
to go abroad,” he said.
That such uncertainty remains nearly
two years after the ACA was signed into
law is testament to how complicated the law
is, and to how little it says about university
students, Finch says.
“Were lawmakers thinking about international students?” asks Finch. “They
weren’t even thinking about regular students. I don’t think anyone thought through
how this would affect international students.”
DANA WILKIE is a freelance writer in
Washington, D.C. Her last article for IE was
“Intimate Proximity: The Human Face of
Genocide” in the January/February 2013
INTERNATIONAL EDUCATOR M A R + A P R . 13
and, therefore, will be less expensive than
those subject to it.
“A school decides it doesn’t want to run
an insurance program any longer, but knows
20 percent of its student population is international “ Koster said. “You don’t want these
individuals on campus with no insurance.
It’s a liability.”
Insurer-offered plans for international
students that run month-to-month are exempt from the ACA [if the maximum period
of coverage is less than 12 months], Koster
says, because they’re deemed “short-term
limited duration” policies. They will still
be more expensive than what international
students were paying under college-administered plans, Koster said.
Haubenreiser say insurers are launching aggressive marketing campaigns aimed
at students. “These companies are telling
international students, ‘Here, buy this plan
versus your school plan, because it will be
less expensive,’” she says. The plan may be
less expensive, she says, but it is typically far
There are other ways around higher insurance costs for international scholars.
Some universities have self-funded plans
that aren’t subject to the ACA rules. Under
Health Insurance and Health Care for
International Students and Scholars,
a practice resource in fall 2012.
View it online at