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Office of International Studies and Programs

Medical Insurance

MEDICAL INSURANCE IN THE UNITED STATES

In the United States, each individual is responsible for paying the costs of his or her own medical care.  In many countries, the government pays health care costs for citizens, and sometimes for visitors, but in the United States individuals and families must pay these costs themselves.

The cost of medical care is the fastest rising expense in the US today.  Severe illnesses and serious accidents can lead to medical bills of thousands of dollars.  Since most US citizens cannot afford the cost of medical care, they rely on health insurance.  For visitors in the United States, purchasing medical insurance for the duration of the visit is the only way to protect against unexpected medical emergencies.

REQUIRED HEALTH INSURANCE SPECIFICATIONS

Since September 1994, Department of State regulations have required that each visitor and his or her dependents maintain medical insurance coverage for the full duration of their J exchange visitor program.  The Department of State-which administers the J Exchange Visitor Program-has established the following requirements for the type and amount of coverage you must carry:

1.    The policy must provide at least $50,000 in coverage for each accident or illness.

2.    If you should die in the United States, the policy must provide at least $7,500 in “repatriation” benefits to send your remains to your home country for burial.

3.    If you must be sent home on the advice of a doctor because of a serious illness or injury, the policy must pay up to $10,000 for the “medical evacuation” expenses of your travel.

4.    The policy may require you to pay a part of the cost of your own medical treatment, but the deductible may not be greater than $500 per accident or illness and the co-payment may not be greater than 25%.

5.    The policy may include a waiting period for pre-existing conditions as long as the waiting period is reasonable by current industry standards. 

6.    The policy may not unreasonably exclude coverage for perils inherent in the activities of your exchanged visitor program.

7.    The policy must meet minimum rating requirements, as set by the Department of State, or it must be backed by the full faith and credit of your home country government. 

FAILURE TO MAINTAIN MEDICAL INSURANCE COVERAGE

Insurance coverage is essential to the United States.  If you or your dependents fail to maintain your medical insurance coverage, you could face catastrophic expenses in the case of a medical emergency.  In some cases, you may be refused medical treatment if you are unable to show that you have the money to pay the expected costs.  Your J status could be terminated and you could be forced to abandon your exchange program and return home.  The regulations provide that if you knowingly and willfully fail to carry health insurance for yourself and your dependents, your sponsor must terminate your program.  Don’t risk it.