Travel Medical Insurance

Travel and Medical Insurance

Students and their families are responsible for planning for and understanding health and safety risks before the student travel abroad. They are encouraged to contact study abroad program administrators before departure to discuss the local view and approach to health issues, legality of prescribed medications, and standards of health care in the country where they are going to pursue their studies. Preparation can help reduce a student’s chances of becoming ill overseas and engaging in behaviours that can put them at increased risk.

Study abroad programs vary in structure and staffing, resources and level of support provided, and obligations placed on students. Some institutions have several employees (study abroad professionals) dedicated to supporting study abroad programs—this includes people who have expertise on international health and safety issues and who have the background to make specific recommendations regarding insurance coverage; other programs have limited or no staff dedicated to such activities.

Travel health professionals can think about dividing risk mitigation practices for students traveling overseas into 2 categories: general and specific considerations. General risk mitigation activitie are those that might apply to anyone traveling internationally—include:

  • Ensuring appropriate immunizations for the destination: routine, recommended, and required vaccinations need to be reviewed and administered as necessary
  • Providing recommended prophylactic and self-treatment medications and first aid kit (see Chapter 6, Travel Health Kits)
  • Providing country- and region-specific environmental health and safety information
  • Guidance for managing chronic health conditions, including compromised immunity
  • Providing information about how to obtain routine and emergency medical and dental care while abroad
  • Assisting travelers with finding out whether their medications can be brought into other countries legally
  • Managing stress and other mental health issues associated with international travel, including culture shock, jet lag and altered sleep patterns
  • Encouraging students to register with the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.

Travel health professionals are also encouraged to take the time to discuss with student travelers these additional, specific topics:

  • The importance of purchasing a travel insurance policy that covers major medical, evacuation, and repatriation: student insurance options offered through the parent institution may be a reasonable, cost-effective option for the student traveler
  • Gender-related health issues, including information for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students
  • Good oral hygiene and dental care
  • Proper nutrition and diet
  • Alcohol and (illicit) drug use: this may include making arrangements for those with preexisting dependency issues
  • Bloodborne pathogen precautions: avoiding needles, blood products, tattoos, piercing, surgeries, acupuncture
  • Practicing safe sex, including what to do in the event of pregnancy
  • Water and extreme sport risks

Providing support for students with special needs, disabilities, or preexisting health conditions may require travel health professionals to collaborate with study abroad professionals.

Study abroad professionals should share general instructions with students about how to locate physicians and mental health providers for emergency and non-emergency situations. They should also encourage students to familiarize themselves with the study-abroad codes of conduct for their home and host institutions, as well as local health and safety issues, cultural norms, laws, and political climate.


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