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Guide to Health Insurance for Overseas Students

Learn about insurance requirements for foreign students in the UK, Australia, the US, and Canada. See if your plan covers your child overseas.
Last update:
13th January 2023
alea
Reviewed by a licensed advisor
son studying abroad hugs parents at college graduation
son studying abroad hugs parents at college graduation
Learn about insurance requirements for foreign students in the UK, Australia, the US, and Canada. See if your plan covers your child overseas.
Last update: 13th January 2023
Contents

Whether your child is off to boarding school, starting university or college, or pursuing a PhD overseas, it’s natural to worry about their health and wellbeing. In this guide, you will learn about health insurance options for international students, so you can rest assured that your child will be covered while they are studying abroad.


Understand student insurance requirements overseas

For the tens of thousands of Hong Kong students studying at international higher education institutions, the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States, and Canada are the most popular overseas study destinations. Below is key information about the health insurance requirements and options for foreign students in these countries.

United Kingdom

In Britain, publicly-funded healthcare is available to all permanent residents under the National Health Service (NHS). Most NHS services are free of charge. Adults, however, must pay for prescription medicine, dental care, eye care, and wigs and fabric supports. Prescriptions are free of charge for people over 60, children under 16, pregnant women, NHS inpatients, and several other groups.

A student studying in the UK on a student visa or other type of visa will need to pay the immigration healthcare surcharge (IHS) at the time of visa application.

Students studying in the UK can start using NHS services once (1) the healthcare surcharge has been paid and (2) the visa or immigration application has been granted.

Australia

Australia’s government provides universal healthcare through Medicare. Australia requires international students studying in Australia to buy Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC). Because certain countries have reciprocal healthcare agreements with Australia, students from these countries are exempt from the OHSC requirement.

Students can pay for OSHC through their educational system or purchase a plan from a registered OSHC insurance provider.

United States

The United States government does not cover its population with universal health insurance. As such, many (but not all) universities require enrolled students to have health insurance.

Each campus may have its own medical insurance policies and costs. Some schools offer healthcare plans in which students must enroll. And health insurance requirements differ across visa categories (i.e., F-1 and J-1 visas may have different requirements). Because there are so many factors at play, it’s best to check directly with the university about specifics.

Whatever the case, medical care in the US is very expensive, so health insurance is a must for students studying there.

Canada

Canada has universal healthcare (Medicare) for all residents. Each province and territory administers its own healthcare system, so the insurance policies and costs for international students depend on the region and university.

In places other than Ontario, Prince Edward Island, and the Yukon Territories, a waiting period of several months may need to be completed before international students can get a health insurance card to access Canada’s public health services for free. Because of this waiting period, universities may require international students to buy short-term insurance to cover them during their first few months in Canada. (An example of this is the iMED health insurance plan required for new international students at UBC.)

In Ontario, international students are automatically enrolled in the University Health Insurance Plan (UHIP), with premiums charged to their student accounts. UHIP coverage starts on the day the student arrives in Canada, or the 10th of the month before their studies start (whichever is later).

International health insurance plans and coverage for students studying overseas

One of the questions we often get from parents in Hong Kong is whether they can keep their adult kids on their private medical plan even if their child goes abroad to study.

Additionally, because university students often travel back to their family’s place of residence during the holidays, it may make practical and financial sense to keep their medical benefits under their parents’ scheme, especially if the medical policy is international and can cover them wherever they are studying (Australia, Canada, France, UK, USA, etc.).

But not all insurance providers allow this. Our team at Alea reached out to some insurance providers we work with to find out for you.

April MyHealth

April MyHealth can offer cover to dependent children up to the age of 22 in full-time education providing that one parent is covered. Proof of full-time studies must be submitted.


April Ma Sante Internationale

April Ma Sante Internationale (France, offshore plan) can offer cover to dependent children if:

  • The child is under 21, unmarried and financially dependent; or
  • The child is under 28, in full-time education and living in the same insurance coverage zone as the parents

If, however, the zone is different from the parents, you must notify April and an extension will be added to the certificate of insurance.


Bupa Global

Bupa Global plans can offer cover to dependent children under the parents’ policy.

There is no age limit.

WOW! We have double-checked and this means a 60+ year-old parent can keep a 30+ child under the policy. No questions asked.


Cigna Global

Cigna Global plans do not offer cover to dependent children under the parents’ policy if they are adults. All adults must hold their policy.

Henner

Henner (France, offshore plan) can offer cover to dependent children if:

  • The child is under 21 and living at the main Member’s home; or
  • The child is under 28, in full-time education and living at the main Member’s home (an updated school certificate must be submitted each year).

If however, the parents’ cover is in combination with the Caisse des Français de l’Etranger, the adult child in full-time education can only be covered until the day before their 20th birthday. An updated school certificate must be submitted each year.


MSH Expat First

MSH Expat First plans (France, offshore plan) can offer cover to dependent children if:

  • The child is under 20; or
  • The child is under 26 and in full-time education (an updated school certificate must be submitted each year).

If however, the parents’ cover is in combination with the Caisse des Français de l’Etranger, the adult child in full-time education can only be covered until the day before their 20th birthday.


Now Health WorldCare

Now Health WorldCare plans can offer cover to dependent children up to the age of 26 in full-time education providing that one parent is covered. Proof of full-time studies must be submitted.

However, Now Health cannot cover members residing in certain countries such as Canada and USA.

Need insurance for your child studying overseas?

If none of the above applies to you and you would like to purchase cover for your adult child, you can get individual international medical insurance based on where your child studies.

Bear in mind that although your child must be the policyholder, the insurance premium can be paid by either you or your child.

To find out which plan is best for your adult child studying abroad, you can get in touch with an Alea advisor, who can go over your options with you based on where they are going to school. The best part? Consultations are free.

FAQ

My adult child is on my health insurance plan. How should we file insurance claims?

Generally, if your child is 18 or above, they can file insurance claims by themselves. If your child is under 18 years old, it is likely that the claim must be filed by a parent or legal guardian. Check with your insurance provider for specifics.

Claims can generally be filed online through the insurance provider’s website or mobile app. For guidance, check out Alea’s comprehensive guide to filing insurance claims.

How long does health insurance coverage last for students studying overseas?

The length of insurance coverage depends on the insurance policy. It’s best to check the policy documents directly.

What happens if my child gets sick while they are studying overseas?

If your child falls ill or gets injured while they are studying overseas, they have several options:

  • Seek care from on-campus medical services
  • Go to a hospital or clinic nearby
  • Contact their school’s international student services office for support
  • Call the insurance company’s customer hotline; someone can help you identify in-network medical service providers, and if necessary, help arrange for hospitalization

Wherever treatment is sought, it’s a good idea to bring along any identity documents and health insurance cards when in case the service provider asks for them. This includes passports and student ID cards. It is also a good idea to stay organized when it comes to storing receipts and reports. This will make claim reimbursements much simpler!

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This article was independently written by Alea and is not sponsored. It is informative only and not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and should never be relied upon for specific advice.