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International Students Health Insurance: Where to Go for These Medical Needs

image from luc.eduWhen international students come to the United States to start their undergraduate or graduate school careers, they’re ecstatic about being a student in a foreign country. They’re excited to be surrounded by the campus life, the college parties, and even the classes they’ll be taking!

But with all good things also comes some unfortunate ones, like getting sick. Whether a student has just broken up with his/her partner and is in need of some counseling to feel better, or has a cold, or worst of all, needs to be rushed off to the ER, these are all situations that require medical attention. Fortunately for international students, it’s a requirement by most colleges that these students have international students health insurance before beginning their academic careers in the States. But the question still stands:

Where do you go for different types of medical emergencies?

This is something that may be a little difficult for international students to wrap their heads around, especially since many nations have much simpler healthcare systems than we do. For example, at home, you may go to the same few doctors for all your medical queries. But in many American colleges, there’s a plethora of different places for each need. So let’s take a minute and break it down. Here’s where you go during each medical situation:


When You Need Emotional Support

College can be a trying time. As young adults going through various emotionally draining experiences while also trying to juggle the constant demands of classes, they may need someone to talk to in order to manage it all. The worst thing a college student can think is that they have to go through these pressures alone, which is why colleges and universities offer counseling centers.

If you’re a student who is home sick, dealing with an emotionally draining breakup, or another traumatic event, you can usually go to student counseling services offered right in your college or university. For this service, you usually don’t need to worry about using your student health insurance or paying a fee. As a full time student at your college or university, you will usually be permitted a certain number of sessions with a counselor per semester, so you can work through whatever it is that’s bothering you!


When You Need a Physical or Have a Mild Illness

In the United States, it is recommended that everyone, including international students, get a physical exam every year. This tests your body for all essential vitamins and nutrients, and ensures you’re not facing any dangerous conditions. As this is not a pressing circumstance, but rather, something you schedule weeks in advance, you should go to your primary care physician. These are the doctors you would see first under normal conditions.

The same is recommended, as well, if you have mild symptoms or suspect you might be starting to come down with something. Many colleges and universities have family physician facilities you can go to if you come down with a mild cold, illness, or other minor physical ailment. When you visit these facilities, make sure to bring your insurance card, as you may be charged a copay.


When You’re Only Able to Go After Hours

One thing that must be known about primary care physicians is that they pretty much operate like most other professionals in the United States: working 8 AM to 5 PM shifts, and they are generally not open for any emergencies. Again, this is where you go for generic queries about your health and routine examinations, for the most part. If you’re unable to go during the regular 8 AM to 5 PM time frame, or you’re unable to get an appointment with your primary care physician in a timely manner, there is another place you can go.

This is called an urgent care facility in most parts of country. They function much like primary care physicians in that you go to a smaller office-like building where you get timely care once you register. However, this should not replace your primary care physician, and you should only go here when you’re unable to make it to your primary care physician. Going here will also require showing your student health insurance during registration.


When You’re in a Life-Threatening Situation

Now, as much as we all hope none of you have to face this situation, the fact of the matter is there are certain situations in which you absolutely cannot wait and you require immediate medical attention. Whether you’ve just eaten something you have a life-threatening allergy to or gotten into a horrendous car crash (in either case you probably couldn’t take action on your own), you will probably be rushed to the emergency room at the local hospital near your university.

In any sort of emergency case, you generally won’t have to worry about registering up front, especially if you’re unconscious or in a life-threatening state. It is common that the medical team will treat you first, and worry about money and compensation later. Once you’re well, you will want to file a claim with your insurance company. Emergency rooms are far more expensive than urgent care facilities or primary care physicians’ offices, so it’s important to have medical insurance that will cover the costs if you need emergency medical treatment.


We hope we’ve helped you understand the healthcare options available to you depending on your emotional or physical ailments. It can be complicated, but with the right medical insurance and resources, you can be sure to go to the right place for each situation. Good luck, students!


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