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Part 12: Health Insurance - 2001-09-10


Our VOA listener question today comes in an e-mail from China. Zhang Mei-zhen asks about the health insurance required of every foreign student who attends an American college or university.

Most full-time students at American universities must have health insurance. This is because health costs in the United States are high. Colleges are not able to pay the costs if students suffer serious accidents or sickness.

Many American colleges have health centers where doctors and nurses treat students’ medical problems. This service may be included in the cost of attending college. Health insurance is usually needed for extra services.

Students may already be protected under their parents’ health insurance policies. If not, many colleges offer their own insurance plans.

For example, students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor are treated without charge for minor medical problems at the university health center. But the university suggests that students buy its health insurance plan. It costs about eight-hundred dollars a year. The insurance pays for hospital services, emergency room care and visits to doctors. It also pays for laboratory tests and X-rays. And it pays ninety percent of the cost of drugs ordered by a doctor. The plan does not pay for birth control, care of the teeth or eyeglasses. And it does not pay for preventive care such as injections that prevent disease.

Students at Boston College in Massachusetts are required to have their own health insurance plan or to buy the college accident and sickness insurance. The college plan costs about five-hundred dollars a year. It pays for any medical care needed within a time period. It does not pay for eyeglasses, hearing aids, or dental treatment.

Students can also buy independent insurance policies from insurance companies. The details of such policies are different, depending on where the student lives. Usually, these policies pay for doctor visits, treatment of injuries and hospital costs.

Sometimes foreign students do not understand the need for health insurance, especially if they do not need such insurance in their own countries. However, people in the United States are responsible for their own medical costs. These can be extremely high in cases of serious illness or accidents. The purpose of health insurance is to make sure that these costs will be paid.