OVERVIEW OF THE US HEALTHCARE SYSTEM FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS
DISCLAIMER: The video below was produced by internationalstudentinsurance.com. While International Student and Scholar Services does not endorse any company’s insurance plan, we do find the information contained within the video to be helpful as a general overview of the American medical system and what an international student or scholar should expect.
University of Alabama Student Health Insurance Overview
UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA HEALTH INSURANCE REQUIREMENTS
University of Alabama policy mandates that all international students are required to maintain medical insurance coverage of at least:
- Unlimited dollar amounts for medical expenses incurred outside the student’s home country;
- Has no pre-existing medical conditions exclusions;
- $25,000 USD coverage for repatriation of mortal remains;
- $50,000 USD coverage for emergency medical evacuation; and
- A deductible that does not exceed $350 per person per policy year for in-network care and does not exceed $750 per person per policy year for out-of-network care.
If you are an F-1 or J-1 student, the University-sponsored medical insurance will be automatically charged to your student account. If this charge is not included on your registration bill, it is your responsibility to notify the UA Student Health Insurance office.
UA Student Health Insurance forms are available here: https://shc.sa.ua.edu/university-sponsored-health-insurance/.How to set up your UHCSR Account and Access Insurance Cards
INSURANCE FOR F-2 & J-2 DEPENDENT SPOUSES AND CHILDREN
Health care in the United States is extremely expensive, so it is important to learn about health resources for your dependents as soon as they arrive in the U.S. Insurance coverage for dependents of J-1 exchange visitors, spouse and children, is required by the J visa program. Coverage for dependents of F-1 students is strongly recommended.
If you are enrolled in the University-sponsored medical insurance plan, you can add your spouse and/or children using the form available here: https://shc.sa.ua.edu/university-sponsored-health-insurance/.
WAIVER OF UA HEALTH INSURANCE FOR THOSE WHO HAVE OTHER INSURANCE
If you already have medical insurance that meets or exceeds the University of Alabama guidelines listed above, you may request a waiver of UA insurance charges. A waiver form is available here: https://shc.sa.ua.edu/university-sponsored-health-insurance/. The waiver form must be completed by you as well as your insurance provider and submitted to UA’s Student Health Center. Without processing a waiver, you will be automatically charged for the University-sponsored insurance policy; so, be sure to submit the waiver in order to avoid paying for two separate insurance policies.
To avoid future billing for health insurance, proof of coverage must be provided for the full insurance period. If a student cannot provide proof of coverage for the year, the student will be required to submit a waiver EACH SEMESTER that the student is enrolled by the insurance company by the waiver deadline (generally on or before the last day to register or add a class), regardless of whether or not proof was provided for the previous semesters. If proof is not provided, you will be charged for UA insurance and held responsible for payment of this charge.
INFORMATION FOR GRADUATE TEACHING & RESEARCH ASSISTANTS
The University of Alabama offers health insurance coverage to some international graduate students who have been awarded a graduate teaching or research assistantship. For more information about this benefit, visit the following website: https://graduate.ua.edu/current-students/getting-started/.
Graduate students who have been awarded an assistantship from their admitting department should contact the department for confirmation that their assistantship award includes the health insurance benefit.
WHY HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE
You never know when you might encounter a serious illness or accident that will require medical care! Medical care in the US is very expensive. Although in many countries the government bears the expense of health care for its citizens or visitors, people in the United States are responsible for these costs themselves.
To stay in the hospital for one day in the US may cost more than $2,500, and a routine pregnancy could cost anywhere from $6,000 – $12,000. Most people would be financially ruined if they had to pay for such expenses. Most Americans rely on health insurance to get access to better and more timely health care and to protect themselves against the enormous costs of health care in this country – you should do the same!
Without health insurance, many doctors would even refuse to treat you unless it was a life-threatening emergency. It also is a violation of immigration law for F-1, F-2, J-1 and J-2 students/scholars and dependents to accept public assistance, even for medical care. By maintaining health insurance, you avoid worrying about unexpected medical costs so you are free to pursue your education or research in the US.
HOW TO USE YOUR INSURANCE
Make sure you present your insurance ID card as proof of insurance each time you visit a doctor.
With most insurance plans, after you receive treatment, the doctor or hospital files a claim with the insurance company for you. This claim is reviewed by the insurance company, and if the treatment is covered, they will make payments to the hospital or doctor. The insurance company will notify you of their decision on the claim.
If the insurance company does not pay the entire bill, the doctor or hospital will send you a bill for the remaining expenses. Most insurance companies don’t cover 100% of treatments, so you will be responsible to pay what the insurance company will not. Make sure you fill out all forms from the doctor or insurance company carefully and completely. If you disagree with the decision of the company about payment of a claim, you have the right to file an appeal. Your insurance company can explain the appeal process.
KEY INSURANCE TERMS
- Claim: A written request for payment by the insurance company of medical expenses that are covered under an insurance policy.
- Co-payment: After the deductible is paid, this is the portion of a covered expense that must be paid by the insured individual. For example, you might have to pay a $20 co-payment each time you see a doctor.
- Deductible: The portion of a covered expense that must be paid by the insured person before the insurance company pays its portion of the expense. (Ex. If the deductible is $100, then you must pay the first $100 of covered medical costs before the insurance will pay anything).
- Exclusion: Any condition or expense for which, under the terms of the insurance policy, no coverage is provided and no payment will be made.
- Insurance Premium: The amount of money you have to pay to receive coverage with an insurance company for a given period of time.
- Pre-existing Condition: A medical condition that existed before an insurance policy was purchased.
- PPO (Preferred Provider Organization): With a PPO plan, the insurance company will generally pay a high percentage of the cost if you choose one of their “preferred providers” (a doctor who is “in network.”)
- HMO (Health Maintenance Organization): With an HMO, you are required to seek care first from a selected physician (the “primary care provider”) before you can go to any other doctors or health facilities.
J-1 Students and Scholars Sponsored by The University of Alabama
J-1 Exchange Visitors under the Department of State’s J-1 non-immigrant visa program are required by law to maintain health insurance for themselves and any J-2 dependents during their stay in the United States. The medical insurance coverage for a J-1 Exchange Visitor and J-2 dependent family members must meet the following minimum federal guideline requirements.
- Medical benefits of at least $100,000 per accident or illness
- A deductible not to exceed $500 per accident or illness
- Expenses associated with the medical evacuation of the exchange visitor to their home country in the amount of $50,000
- Repatriation of remains in the amount of $25,000
- Exchange visitors may also be subject to the requirements of the Affordable Care Act
Please note some insurance policies may not meet the J-1 insurance deductible requirements. J-1 Exchange Visitors who are paid by The University of Alabama and eligible for Blue Cross/Blue Shield Insurance through UA (e.g. paid J-1 Research Scholars, J-1 Teachers, J-1 Specialists, and J-1 Physicians), must choose the referred Provider Organization Plan (PPO) Option for insurance coverage in order to meet the J-1 visa requirements. The High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) will not meet the J-1 visa requirements.
Additionally, not all health insurance plans include medical evacuation and repatriation coverage; for instance Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Alabama does not include medical evacuation and repatriation. Medical evacuation and repatriation coverage (see below) must be purchased separately if coverage is not provided by your health insurance.
SEVIS authorized Responsible Officers of the J program are required to maintain proof that J-1 and J-2 Exchange Visitors have adequate insurance in effect throughout the entire time they are participating in the sponsor’s program. Proof of adequate health insurance coverage must indicate the duration of your coverage including the end date of the policy.
If your actual health insurance card does not provide this information, you should make a copy of your insurance plan details that indicate the insurance coverage start and end dates. You must also provide proof of medical evacuation and repatriation coverage. A copy or print out of your current and valid insurance plan details that indicate medical evacuation and repatriation coverage will be accepted as adequate proof of coverage.
Medical Evacuation & Repatriation Coverage
For international students and J-1 scholars who are enrolled in an insurance policy which provides standard medical and prescription benefits only (e.g. Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Alabama), you are required to maintain additional insurance coverage for medical evacuation and repatriation of mortal remains.
Medical evacuation and repatriation insurance is designed specifically for international visitors to the United States to provide return transport home in the case of a severe medical emergency or in the case of death. Additionally, this type of insurance provides other protections in emergencies.
The American College Student Association (ACSA) and Global Travel Plus provide Medical Evacuation and Repatriation coverage. Additionally, Medical Evacuation and Repatriation is offered through InsuBuy.
Health Services Clearance – Immunizations Are Required for All Students (American & International)
UA policy requires that all students born after 1956 provide documentary evidence of immunizations (measles, mumps, rubella, and meningitis). Before you can complete the registration process for class, all new students regardless of classification, must have:
- Proof of the meningitis vaccination (Manactra and Menveo) for those under the age of 21 or who are living in on-campus housing.
- If you were born after 1956, proof of two (2) measles containing vaccinations. One of these vaccines must be an MMR vaccination after 1980. Bring documentation of your immunization record from home.
- Acceptable proof of tuberculosis screening within the last year.
Instructions on How to Submit Your Immunization Record – https://shc.sa.ua.edu/immunizations/
- Log into your MyBama account
- Under the Student Tab, navigate to the Student Health Center & Pharmacy section
- Select the “Upload Immunizations” icon
- Print the form and take it to your health care provider/doctor
- Your health care provider/doctor completes the form, signs it and places the official office stamp next to provider signature
- Scan the complete and signed form and any other documents (clear and readable photographs are acceptable)
- Log into your MyBama account, access the Immunization icon, then follow document upload instructions
Once your form has been processed (48-72 hours), you will receive a confirmation email or an email regarding why we rejected what was submitted. If you have any questions, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (205) 348-6262 or (205) 348-4637. Be sure to include your CWID when you email or call.
All vaccines and tuberculosis screening are available at the Student Health Center but MUST be completed prior to moving into campus housing or start of classes. If your immunization records do not indicate that these requirements have been met, you MUST be vaccinated upon your arrival to UA.
To view the complete UA Health Requirement for Registration policy, please visit https://www.ua.edu/about/policies/.
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0360
Phone: (205) 348-6262 or (205) 348-4637
Fax: (205) 348-0630 or (205) 348-8611
Prior to registration, you are strongly encouraged to complete the Medical History Form and to download, print and complete the Pharmacy Information Sheet. The pharmacy information sheet should be mailed or faxed to:
Student Health Center
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0360
Fax: (205) 348-9850
If you have any illness or medical condition that requires regular treatment or alteration of your life style, please have your treating physician provide pertinent information and guidelines that will allow the SHC to assist our physician to provide continuity of care.
Need medical care now?
Local Healthcare Facilities
In general, it is much more cost effective to choose one of the clinics listed below if your health emergency is not severe or life threatening rather than going to a hospital. If you are on UA’s UnitedHealthcare insurance, please visit https://www.myuhc.com/ to find a doctor who accepts UnitedHealthcare insurance and is a Preferred Provider.
If you are enrolled in the University’s BlueCross/BlueShield of Alabama plan as an employee, you can visit https://www.bcbsal.org/web/provider-finder to find a doctor in the BlueCross/BlueShield network.
UA UnitedHealthcare Plan – TeleHealth Services
If you are enrolled in The University of Alabama’s UnitedHealthcare Insurance Plan, you are also able to use the 24/7 tele-doc (a doctor through the phone) for doctor access and counseling support, which is fully covered.
If you are not on the UA Plan, you can use these services for a fee.
To find out more information, please see the UHCSR Plan Brochure Information.
Hospitals and Emergency Rooms
OVERVIEW OF MENTAL HEALTH CARE FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS
DISCLAIMER: The video below was produced by internationalstudentinsurance.com. While International Student and Scholar Services does not endorse any company’s insurance plan, we do find the information contained within the video to be helpful as a general overview of mental health care, awareness of mental health warning signs, myths, and ways to seek treatment.
Student Counseling Center
The Counseling Center’s mission is to help University of Alabama students achieve academic success and personal growth through quality brief counseling and psychological services, outreach and consultative services, and training of mental health professionals. Counseling records are entirely confidential and will in no way affect your stay at the University or in the United States. Such records are released only with your written permission.
The Counseling Center is located at 3000 South Lawn Office Building (1101 Jackson Avenue). You may reach the Counseling Center by calling 205-348-3863 or after-hours at 205-348-5454 or visiting their website http://counseling.ua.edu/.
Employee Assistance Program
The University Employee Assistance Program (EAP) offers international scholars and faculty and their families free personal counseling to help with issues such as stress, relationship problems, alcohol or drug dependence, or depression. Even the most successful person may experience considerable difficulty in adjusting to a new environment. The Employee Assistance Program can help with this adjustment. The EAP offers services designed to complement the University’s academic mission by assisting staff and faculty with their personal and professional development through a variety of services. Counseling records are entirely confidential and will in no way affect your stay at the University or in the United States. Such records are released only with your written permission.
For more information, visit the HR website: https://hr.ua.edu/wellness-work-life/employee-assistance-program.
What is “Culture Shock”?
• Culture Shock refers to the anxiety experienced by an individual when changes occur in his/her environment. These changes include the absence of familiar surroundings, family, and support systems.
• Culture Shock may be experienced by any person who spends an extended period of time in a new or different culture. The new culture’s signs, symbols, and social cues can produce frustration and anxiety.
• The shock of adjustment is normal and perhaps universal.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Culture Shock include
• Anxiety, sadness, depression
• Frustration, despair, disorganization
• Anger, confusion, loneliness
• Lack of energy
• Loss of enjoyment in daily activities
• Withdrawal from others
• Headaches, stomach pains
• Loss of appetite, changes in sleep patterns, tearfulness
How to Cope with “Culture Shock”
• Know that your reactions are normal
• Speak with an advisor in International Student and Scholar Services
• Seek professional help if needed
• Participate in adjustment programs like International Coffee Hour