Travel Insurance for Students is a Must

Each year, thousands of young Canadians study abroad, about 28,000 of them in the United States. And though almost all of them have a full slate of health care benefits from their provincial plans while at home, once they leave the country, those benefits decrease sharply and supplemental private insurance becomes necessary.

Provincial health plans pay very little to foreign hospitals and doctors. Frequent travellers and snowbirds know that very well: that’s why they buy private travel health insurance.

But for students who are out of the country for long periods of time and may need coverage that goes beyond the emergency-only policies that are available for travellers, insurance designed specifically for students is absolutely necessary.

Travel insurance is designed to cover emergencies only. It does not provide continuing care, or annual checkups, or preventive care. Consequently, it doesn’t meet the needs of most students who spend perhaps as much as 10 months a year out of the country. But longer term student in insurance offers broader coverage.

Many universities in the U.S., and other countries, require foreign students to have adequate health insurance in place as a condition of enrollment. And the provincial benefits won’t come close to meeting those requirements.  Many colleges have their own plans (underwritten by major commercial insurers) and most require that the students’ health policies meet very high benefit criteria, and in many cases that can be extraordinarily expensive.

Consequently, students, or their parents, need to do two things: first check with their provincial health ministry to get a dispensation of the six or seven month residency rule (which states that they must be physically present in the province in order to be considered residents and be eligible for their medicare).

All provinces allow such student dispensations, but it is best to contact your provincial health ministry to get the details and conform to the rules well before heading off for school in the fall.

Next, they should talk with Canadian insurers who specialize in student health plans—whether the destination school is in the U.S. or elsewhere. This is not a product to buy off the shelf: it requires clear explanation of the benefits and exclusions, and a complete understanding of the rules the college applies.

Though young students often think of themselves as invincible and often don’t consider the need for health insurance when out of the country, they and/or their parents need to be realistic about the financial risks of leaving the country without adequate coverage—especially when leaving for long periods.

Are you an international student? Let us help you feel at home while you study abroad. We cover all your health insurance needs, give you easily accessible resources for navigating the healthcare systems, provide physical and mental wellness support through the Stay Healthy at School program, 24/7 claim services should you need assistance, and much more. For more information, visit, call us at 1-855-649-4182 or email us at

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