International students required to buy health insurance to attend KSU

Alyse Rohloff

All international students are required to purchase a health insurance plan from Kent State or one that is comparable in coverage.

According to the Kent State’s policy registrar, the purpose of the mandatory effect is “to ensure reliable access for international students in the United States health care services.”

The plan will cost $1,990 for a full year (from August 20 to August 19 the following year) and $821 for the fall semester. This cost will be billed to international students by August 21.

 “We have had students themselves that have prompted the conversation because even though you are told to have health insurance, it doesn’t mean you are going to do it,” said Desnee Stevens, assistant director of international student and scholar services for the Office of Global Education. “They didn’t realize that healthcare in this country is very expensive.”

 Stevens said the policy was implemented to avoid the risk of students not being able to afford outside care or health insurance plans that do not cover all medical elements students might need.

 “We found that many times, the insurance plans they purchase really are not good coverage, so they can experience a bit of sticker shock if they have to use the healthcare system,” said Angela DeJulius, director of University Health Services. “They don’t realize maybe that they may have purchased a health insurance plan, but it may not cover prescriptions, or it may not cover mental health or pregnancy or pre-existing conditions.”

Students are able to apply for the hard waiver program, in which students can receive health care from another provider. To be eligible for this program, the student must provide proof of full sponsorship by a government agency including health insurance or provide proof of health insurance provided by a United States employer.

Students who have purchased the university health plan said it is beneficial.

Junior public health major Joud Roufael, an Syrian international student, made the switch to the university plan because “it’s more convenient and the one back home is actually more expensive to do international.”

When Roufael had to have appendix removal surgery, he only had to pay about two percent of the $20,000 surgery himself out-of-pocket through the plan.

This policy had been discussed in the past but became solidified as other universities around the state and nation changed their student health insurance policies.

“Mandatory health insurance has been, for a lot of universities, it’s just a thing,” Stevens said. “This is what it is whether you’re a domestic, whether you’re international, there is mandatory health insurance. Kent State is basically just following the same process as every other university or most.”

One of the biggest influences was President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act which provided health insurance to nearly 10 million Americans who were previously uninsured.

“I think the Affordable Care Act really strengthened our feeling that this was the right thing to do because with the Affordable Care Act, everybody in the country is expected to have health insurance,” DeJulius said. “It didn’t seem right, if we’re concerned about our domestic students, that they have adequate coverage, we need to do the same for the international students. It’s not fair to leave them exposed.”

 This policy will help international students receive the help they might need without leaving them with a huge price tag, DeJulius said.

 Contact Alyse Rohloff at [email protected].