American medical coverage a pain in the rib: an overview of student healthcare and insurance in the United States


When I moved to Costa Rica, I was surprised that I could simply walk into a pharmacy and buy almost any medication without a prescription.

(I say almost because I needed a prescription for a pain medication when I fractured my ribs—but I digress.) Coming from the United States, this was a strange concept.

For most people, when we travel and live in a foreign country, we dont think that anything out of the ordinary will happen to us. The stark reality though, is that unexpected things do happen (like my ribs smashing against the fishing boat in the Gulf of Guanacaste). In the United States, health care and medication is largely a privatized system, which translates to the fact that it can be very expensive.

Just for background, health insurance, most simply put, is any form of insurance that provides protection against the high cost of medical services.

Here in the United States, it is both a public and private system. While the majority of citizens have private insurance plans, the government subsidizes the majority of medical costs for seniors and low-income children and families.

The two government-run programs, Medicare and Medicaid, draw considerable attention from politicians, press, and public voices in the United States.

Nearly 70% of Americans opt for private healthcare coverage. Out of the United States entire population, over 60% buy into plans offered through their employers, while just 9% purchase insurance directly. While healthcare plans are managed by a consortium of private companies, the content of said plans are regulated by both state and federal precedents.

Most schools in the United States require students to either enroll in school-sponsored insurance plans, or provide confirmation of a comparable coverage source. Study Group’s Study Care is one such program.

Study Groups Study Care is, effectively, a form of private health insurance offered specifically to Study Group students.

The insurance, which covers everything from doctor visits to surgery, becomes effective immediately after admitted students leave their home countrys airspace (aka, when you touch off the tarmac for the United States). While a small fee of $50 is charged directly to the student following medical consultations, this fee is only a deductible, or partial payment, of whatever expense was incurred by the visit. So, basically, if a doctor visit cost $250, an insured student will only be expected to pay $50 out-of-pocket.

Some specialty services, such as psychiatric therapy, dental care, or addiction rehabilitation, incur greater direct costs. Once a student departs the United States, Study Care coverage becomes null and void. Upon re-entry, however, students insurance may be renewed if applicable.