International Education

Health Insurance and Your Off Campus Program

Health Insurance Requirements

Required health coverage for off-campus program participation

As a student participating in a Willamette Sponsored program you are required to have health insurance that covers you for the duration of your program, in the country of your program and for any travel you do before or after your program. The Willamette University Student Health Insurance policy, through Aetna, is valid for study abroad. Every Willamette student, even though you will be abroad, will be automatically enrolled in the Willamette Student Health Insurance.  For information on this policy, enrollment, cost, and your option to decline the university's health insurance, please refer to the Student Health Insurance webpage.

Other considerations: Mandatory program health insurance

Some programs have mandatory health insurance as part of the program.  Categories A & B below have mandatory health insurance. Category C programs require health insurance but a specific health insurance is not needed- the student just needs to meet Willamette University's requirements for a plan.  All students who will study abroad on a Willamette Sponsored Study Abroad Program will complete a Health Insurance Information sheet during the pre-departure process.  That form will tell our office how each student will meet the health insurance requirements and what coverage they will have while abroad.

Each Willamette Sponsored Program treats insurance differently. Consult the Willamette Sponsored Programs Cost Matrix on your Program page for insurance information.  Your program will fall into one of these categories:

A) include health insurance automatically at no extra cost to the student - students cannot decline this insurance and are still subject to Willamette University's Student Health Insurance enrollment as described above;

B) require the purchase of specific health insurance- billed and paid as per the program provider (not Willamette University) or host university's instructions - students cannot decline this insurance and are still subject to Willamette University's Student Health Insurance enrollment as described above;

C) require health insurance, but not require you purchase a specific program insurance. You must attest that you have insurance coverage (either in the Willamette Student Health Insurance Plan (Aetna) or another health insurance plan). This is done on the Health Insurance Information sheet during the pre-departure process.  Students are still subject to Willamette University's Student Health Insurance enrollment as described above. KEEP IN MIND that your insurance may need to meet the requirements of a specific country's VISA process. If you are considering purchasing special insurance JUST FOR THE PERIOD OF STUDY ABROAD, wait to purchase until you know whether it meets the requirements of the visa process if needed.

Students will have health insurance coverage in at least one of the three ways listed above. Students are also required to have Emergency Evacuation and Repatriation coverage. The Willamette University Student Health Insurance Plan does include Emergency Evacuation and Repatriation coverage.

Emergency Evacuation and Repatriation

Emergency Evacuation and Repatriation coverage is required of all study abroad participants. The Willamette University Student Health Insurance Plan does include Emergency Evacuation and Repatriation coverage. Also, Willamette University students on Sponsored Programs automatically receive a MINIMAL level of Emergency Evacuation and Repatriation coverage as long as the student has health insurance that includes these items below:

  • outpatient care
  • diagnostic services
  • hospital/emergency care

The evacuation piece covers you in the event that you are medically ill to the point of needing to return to the United States, possibly with special care en route.  The repatriation piece covers the cost of transporting your remains (if you should die while abroad) back to your home country. A claim information card as well as brochure of the emergency evacuation and repatriation health insurance will be given to you during the pre-departure process.

Pre-existing conditions

A PRE-EXISTING CONDITION is a term used by insurance companies to describe a medical condition for which you may have already been seen or otherwise given advice by a healthcare professional. However, each   insurance company sets its own parameters on how long something is considered pre-existing. Many insurance policies do not cover pre-existing conditions or have explicit waiting period and other coverage conditions for pre-existing conditions.

Please read and understand your coverage BEFORE dropping any other insurance that you already have. If you have a pre-existing condition, you may wish to retain all current insurance policies that you have used for ongoing/recent conditions in addition to any new coverage you acquire. Consult the Student Insurance Coordinator in Bishop Wellness Center for information about pre-existing coverage on the Willamette University Student Health Plan.

Health Insurance Enrollment

Willamette University Student Health Insurance Plan

See the following webpage for information about the student health plan through Willamette University:  Willamette University Student Health Insurance Plan (Aetna)

Other Health Insurance (not through Willamette University)

For students in category C described above, students are still subject to Willamette University's Student Health Insurance enrollment and waiver process.

For students in category A or B as described above, there is no way to opt out of health insurance that is mandated by the program, either by the host university or the host country. Students are still subject to Willamette University's Student Health Insurance enrollment/waiver process.

More than One Health Insurance Plan

Some students and/or their parents may have personal, financial, or health reasons to retain current coverage and/or seek coverage in more than one plan. This is an individual decision. Students are encouraged to carefully evaluate any existing health insurance they have and determine the risks and advantages to being enrolled in more than one health plan.

DOUBLE COVERAGE:  We recommend that students carefully consider the advantages of retaining any current health insurance in which they are enrolled in addition to any mandatory coverage.  This is especially true if the student has any pre-existing conditions (see definition above) or foresees need for coverage for any of the excluded conditions. (See information above about pre-existing conditions.)  Finally, students should investigate how a disruption in continuity of the usual health insurance would affect their coverage upon return from the program.  Go to Willamette University Student Health Insurance Plan (Aetna) for information on the policy, enrollment, cost, and your option to decline the university's health insurance

There are many other reasons you may want to have coverage in more than one health insurance.

For various reasons, students may be covered by more than one health insurance while abroad. This is a personal decision based on the enrollment and cancellation policy of each insurance; pre-existing conditions; services that are covered or not covered (exclusions); deductibles; personal preference for coverage levels; etc.  Consult with your personal insurance company to determine how the two policies will work together.


Using U.S. Health Insurance Outside of the U.S. - Major Differences

MANY medical plans or overseas health providers require that expenses be paid up front. You often must submit a claim for reimbursement of this payment after the service has been rendered. Check with all of your health insurance plans to learn how you will handle medical expense claims while abroad or in a different state.  Be prepared with access to extra cash for medical situations where you must pay at the time of service. Most medical facilities take credit cards. The Willamette University Student Health Plan offers international contact representatives to help you find a qualified healthcare professional and provides advice regarding getting the most appropriate care for you if you become ill or injured abroad.

Recommendation: Bring blank claim forms for your health insurance provider with you. This makes it easy for you to collect the information you need to file a claim later.  Your insurance company will want information such as diagnosis, treating physician/facility, treatment plan, etc. The physician, clinic, or hospital will probably be willing to complete some of this information on the form at the visit.

For more information about health topics and well-being abroad please refer to the "Staying Healthy Abroad" chapter of your study abroad handbook.

Questions for your health insurance provider

If you will retain any existing health insurance in addition to the health insurance plan associated with your program (all categories of students), here are some questions that will guide your conversation with your health insurance provider:

  • Does your health insurance plan cover me while studying outside of my home country? If so, does it cover me in the countries where I will be studying AND traveling (before and after the official program dates)?
  • Do I need prior authorization from you (the insurance company) before any medical services can be rendered abroad?
  • Is there an international phone number to use for help with medical concerns while I am abroad?
  • What is the claim process for reimbursement- for example if the doctor or hospital will not bill your health insurance company directly (which is most often the case when abroad)? How do I file a claim for medical costs abroad?
  • What are the maximum benefits for sickness and injury while I am abroad?
  • Are pre-existing conditions covered? How are pre-existing conditions determined?
  • How long after I am on the insurance is a condition considered pre-existing? Who makes that determination?
  • Are there some pre-existing conditions that are INCLUDED?

Further Health Resources

For a list of online resources about health and safety abroad please visit our Tips and Resources page as well as the Health and Safety chapters in your study abroad handbook.