One of the many preparations and necessarily one of the top priorities a student has to make for studying abroad is an appropriate and adequate health insurance cover.Having insurance is a must if you are going to study abroad. Whilst it is a must in universities in the Schengen area and the USA, it is optional in the UK, Australia and South East Asian countries like Singapore and Malaysia. Even if the university or the country does not insist on a student having insurance, it is advisable to have one, as medical costs in developed countries are substantially higher than in India.
Here are some factors worth considering:-
- Some universities make it mandatory for the student to buy insurance from them, whilst some have clauses which Indian Insurer policies do not comply with. In such a case you have no alternative but to buy insurance offered by the university
- Some universities abroad do not accept polices from insurers outside their country. In such a case you would be forced to buy from the university or a local insurer whose policy complies with the university rules
- The student must be aware of the rules and guidelines set by the university for insurance cover. These would vary for each university. Uncertainty about these and a lack of knowledge about alternatives, force students to buy from the university and the premium is often billed with the fees. As long as the guidelines issued by the university are met and insurance from domestic companies is allowed, it is far more economical to buy insurance from a domestic company.
- Domestic insurers like ICICI Lombard, Bajaj, Tata AIG, etc offer plans where premiums are much cheaper than what is charged by foreign universities for the same amount of coverage.
- Most standard university plans cover only health but domestic policies, apart from health cover also offer non-medical benefits like loss of passport, check-in baggage, compassionate visits of parents if student is hospitalised, study interruption protection and sponsor protection.Whilst choosing a policy, one should look at size of cover, claim settlement process, hospital network (universities provide cashless treatment in hospitals on or near the campus and these hospitals might not be on the cashless network of Indian insurers) and benefits apart from medical ones. An Indian insurer may be better on cost efficiency and benefits but the university may provide a more extensive health cover with better network hospitals.Finally, if the student already has a health cover in India, he should not stop paying premium for the same as he would lose all accrued benefits. When he returns, if he has discontinued.