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U.S. Health Care and Insurance

The health care system in the United States is complex and expensive. You need to know how to use your health insurance so you can get the medical care you need without huge costs.


Students

Health Insurance Requirement

Health care in the United States can be very expensive. Therefore, health insurance coverage is mandatory for all MSU international students.

When an international student at MSU registers for any number of credits, the student's account is automatically charged for the cost of the health insurance. Students should receive a health insurance card in the mail shortly after the beginning of the fall semester. (Or the spring semester, if that is your first semester of enrollment.)

The current health insurance provider for MSU international students is the Blue Care Network, often called simply "BCN". You can learn more about the BCN plan on the MSU Human Resources website.

Health Insurance Waiver Information

Why to apply for a waiver

Some students prefer to purchase their own non-MSU health insurance plan or are provided with a non-MSU health insurance plan from their educational sponsor. If you have a non-MSU health insurance plan, you can apply for a Health Insurance Waiver.

How to apply for a health insurance waiver

In order to qualify for a Health Insurance Waiver, your non-MSU health insurance plan must meet the minimum waiver criteria. Learn more about the waiver criteria on the MSU Human Resources Student Heath Insurance website. To start your waiver application, log in to StuInfo. Select the "Other" tab and click on  “Insurance waiver.” After you complete the waiver application online, you will get an email from MSU Human Resources with further instructions on how to submit your health insurance documents for review. Be sure to follow these instructions or you will not be eligible for a waiver.

If your waiver application is approved, you will be removed from the mandatory BCN health insurance plan and the cost of the BCN plan will be refunded to your MSU Student Account.

 

Get Your BCN Insurance Card

BCN mails insurance cards to all students who are enrolled in the plan.

Sometimes MSU international students do not receive their health insurance cards in the mail. This often happens when students do not update their off-campus addresses in StuInfo as soon as they move in or they enter an incorrect address in StuInfo. 

The best way to ensure that you will receive your MSU health insurance card is to update your address in StuInfo immediately after you move to a new address. Be sure to use U.S. Postal Service (USPS) suggested address in StuInfo. Do not override the suggested address.  

If you did not receive your card

Step One: Make sure your address is updated in StuInfo.

Step Two: You have two options.

Option One: Meet with Sarah Allen in Room 147 of the Olin Health Center to request a new card.

Option Two: Follow these steps

1. Contact MSU Human Resources to obtain your Contract ID and Group Number.

      • Phone: 517-353-4434
      • Email: SolutionsCenter(at)hr.msu.edu
      • Location: Nisbet Building, Suite 110 (1407 S Harrison Rd, East Lansing MI 48824)

2. Go to Blue Care Network and click "Register" to create a profile.

3. Request a new ID card from your BCN online account.

How to Use the Olin Health Center

MSU Student Health Services offers a wide range of medical services on campus at the Olin Health Center.

Your health care costs will be lowest at Olin, so it should be your first stop whenever possible. For emergencies, please go to the nearest Emergency Room. For information on what is an emergency, see the “Is this an Emergency?” section of the health care resource map

  • You must make an appointment to see a medical provider at Olin. Call 517-353-4660 to schedule your appointment. Many appointments will take place the same day you call.
  • If you need a ride to the Olin Health Center and live on campus or within one mile of campus, the Olin Health Center Courtesy Van can give you a free ride to your appointment. Call 517-353-4700 to schedule a ride.
  • The Olin 24-Hour Phone Information Nurse Line allows you to contact a nurse anytime, day or night, with health-related questions. Learn more at http://olin.msu.edu/services/pin.htm.

Getting Help Off-Campus When Olin is Closed

Students who are sick or hurt when the Olin Health Center is closed can seek medical care off-campus. There are three types of resources students in this situation should use:

Urgent Care Centers

In the United States, it is best to visit a facility called an Urgent Care Center for most common illnesses or injuries. At an Urgent Care Center, no appointments are needed and students can usually see a doctor quickly (within one hour). The cost for treatment is much lower than an Emergency Room (“ER”). You can find the locations of Urgent Care Centers located close to MSU's campus on our Local Health Facilities Map (PDF).

Hospital Emergency Rooms (or "ER") 

Students should only use a hospital emergency room when facing a serious illness or injury. In most countries around the world, people can visit hospitals for any kind of illness or injury, even if it is a minor condition. In the United States, students should only use the ER when the condition is a serious emergency. It is a common mistake for international students to go to the ER when experiencing a minor illness or injury. Students who make this mistake often wait for several hours to see a doctor and end up paying a high price for their medical care. However, when the injury or illness is severe or if an illness or injury is not improving with medical care from another doctor, the ER is the right place to go.

Below are examples of appropriate conditions for ER treatment:

  • Loss of conciousness
  • Signs of a heart attack that last 2 minutes or longer, which include chest pain or chest pain radiating to the left arm
  • Signs of a stroke, which include sudden onset of numbness in any extremity and elevated blood pressure
  • A major injury, such as a head injury
  • Bleeding that does not stop after 10 minutes of direct pressure
  • Sudden severe pain
  • Severe shortness of breath
  • A severe or worsening reaction to an insect bite or sting, or to a medication, especially if breathing is affected
  • Unexplained stupor, drowsiness or disorientation
  • Poisoning
  • Coughing up or vomiting blood
  • Suicidal or homicidal feelings
  • Anything else you reasonably believe may be an emergency

911 Emergency Line

If you or someone near you is in a life-threatening situation, always dial 911 from any phone. An ambulance, police officers, or fire engine will be sent to your location. 

Getting Medicine at a Pharmacy

Pharmacies in the United States can offer two types of medicine: prescription drugs and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs.

Pharmacies also always have a professional pharmacist available whenever they are open. Pharmacists can answer questions you may have about the medicines available at the pharmacy.

Prescription Drugs

If a doctor wants you to take medicine for your medical condition, they will write a prescription for a certain drug. The prescription may be given to you on a piece of paper or may be sent electronically to a pharmacy that you choose. If your prescription is on a piece of paper you can take it to any pharmacy to get the prescription filled and to pick up your medicine. If your prescription is sent electronically, you should go directly to the pharmacy that received your electronic prescription. Your health insurance will usually cover most of the cost of prescription drugs.

Over-the-counter (OTC) Drugs

There are many common medications that are available to purchase without a prescription at pharmacies. Common OTC medications include: mild pain relievers, cold & cough medicines, and digestive remedies. These medications will be on store shelves instead of behind the pharmacy counter. If you are not sure which OTC drug to choose, you can ask the pharmacist for advice.

Local Pharmacies 

On Campus:

  • Olin Health Center
  • MSU Clinical Center

Off Campus:

  • Meijer
  • Kroger
  • Target
  • Walmart
  • CVS 
  • Walgreens 
  • Rite Aid

Health Insurance While Working on OPT or AT

If you want to get work experience in the United States after graduation, you will use work authorization called either Optional Practical Training (F-1) or Academic Training (J-1). Learn more about work authorization in the U.S.


F-1 Optional Practical Training

After you graduate from MSU, there is no requirement for you to continue to carry health insurance. However, the cost of medical care in the United States is so high that it is very risky to be inside the country without health insurance coverage. We highly recommend that you obtain coverage for your entire OPT time period.

  • If you are employed full-time during OPT, you might receive health insurance as a benefit of your employment. (NOTE: U.S. employer-issued health insurance policies often do not cover medical evacuation or repatriation, which are essential coverages for any non-citizen living in the U.S. Please email ihealth(at)msu.edu for information on how to buy an inexpensive policy to meet these needs.)
  • If you do not receive employee health insurance, you should obtain your own health insurance. You can continue to purchase MSU Student Health Insurance (BCN) during OPT if you wish. You can enroll by contacting MSU Human Resources at 517-353-4434 or SolutionsCenter(at)hr.msu.edu.
  • If you would prefer to use a different plan, please email the OISS Community Health Program at ihealth(at)msu.edu. We can send you a list of alternative plans that can be used during OPT.

J-1 Academic Training

After you graduate from MSU, the university will no longer enforce a health insurance requirement.

However, the J-1 visa status does require that you maintain sufficient health insurance coverage at all times.

All J-1 and J-2 visas holders are required to maintain health insurance that meets the following minimum requirements:

  • $100,000 per sickness/illness
  • $100,000 per accident/injury
  • $50,000 for medical evacuation
  • $25,000 for repatriation
  • Maximum $500 deductible
  • Coinsurance does not exceed 25% of covered benefit expense per accident or illness.

You are responsible for maintaining your status and that of any J-2 dependents while in the United States. Failure to maintain health insurance that meets the above criteria will result in a violation of your visa status.

  • You can continue to purchase MSU Student Health Insurance (BCN) during Academic Training if you wish. You can enroll by contacting MSU Human Resources at 517-353-4434 or SolutionsCenter(at)hr.msu.edu. If you would prefer to use a different plan, please email the OISS Community Health Program at ihealth(at)msu.edu. We can send you a list of alternative plans that meet the J-1 visa requirements and can be used during Academic Training.
  • If you receive health insurance as a benefit of your employment during Academic Training, it is not likely to meet all J-1 requirements. Please email your policy details to ihealth(at)msu.edu for an evaluation of your policy’s compliance with J-1 visa requirements.

How to Get Help With Your Medical Bills

What to Expect After Seeking Medical Care

Explanation of Benefits (EOB)

The insurance company will send you a form called the "Explanation of Benefits" (EOB). This form may be sent to you electronically or in the mail. The EOB is not a medical bill. The purpose of EOB is to tell you what portion of a claim was paid to the health care provider by the insurance company and what portion of the payment, if any, you are responsible for. If you have questions concerning your EOB, please contact the toll-free number on your insurance card or visit OISS for assistance.

Medical bills

In addition to the EOB, you will receive bills in the mail from the medical service providers. At times, you may receive multiple bills.

OISS Can Help

If you have questions regarding your bills or EOBs, please visit OISS during walk-in hours (1-3pm: Monday – Friday) to meet with a health advisor. If you are unavailable during the walk-in hours, please contact ihealth(at)msu.edu to schedule an appointment.

Please bring your health insurance card, all of the bills and explanations of benefits that have been received to your appointment.

Learn More

Click Understanding the EOB for more information. 

Click How Health Insurance Works for more information (Includes definitions of words found on the EOB).

Scholars

Health Insurance Requirements for J-1 and J-2

All J-1 and J-2 visas holders are required to maintain health insurance that meets the following requirements:

  • $100,000 per sickness/illness
  • $100,000 per accident/injury
  • $50,000 for medical evacuation
  • $25,000 for repatriation
  • $500 deductible maximum
  • Coinsurance does not exceed 25% of covered benefit expense per accident or illness.

Ensuring you and your J-2 dependents have adequate health insurance coverage is one of your top priorities upon arrival at MSU. You are responsible for maintaining your status and that of your dependents while in the US. Failure to maintain health insurance that meets the above criteria will result in a violation of your J status.

After you purchase health insurance submit the following documents to OISS:

J-1 Scholars Who are MSU Employees

If you are an employee of MSU, your insurance may be provided by the University.

J-1 Scholars employed by MSU full-time for more than nine months

MSU will provide your health insurance. You will have a few options to choose from. When you check-in with your department, you will be scheduled for orientation with Human Resources at which time you will be provided with health insurance enrollment information. Please refer to the MSU Human Resources website for additional information on employee insurance.

J-1 Scholars who will be employed for less than 9 months by MSU

You are responsible for providing your own health insurance. This insurance could be purchased through MSU, a private company, or could be a policy you brought from your home country. Learn more about your options by clicking on “J-1 Scholars Who are Not Employed by MSU” below.

J-1 Scholars Who are Not Employed by MSU

Health Insurance Options:

  1. Purchase the MSU Student Insurance Policy (which exceeds the J-visa requirements) through the MSU HR Solutions Center. Please contact HR.

  2. Purchase health insurance from a private, US-based company.
    • There are many options available in the private market.  OISS has created a database of  private plans that meet the J-visa requirements, and have decent coverage.
    • You can meet with a health advisor to review the database options. If you have found a policy on your own, one of our health advisors can review the policy to ensure that it will offer quality coverage. We highly recommend you meet with a health advisor prior to purchasing a private market policy.

How to Use the Olin Health Center

MSU Student Health Services offers a wide range of medical services on campus at the Olin Health Center.

Your health care costs will be lowest at Olin, so it should be your first stop whenever possible.

  • You must make an appointment to see a medical provider at Olin. Call 517-353-4660 to schedule your appointment. Many appointments will take place the same day you call.
  • If you need a ride to the Olin Health Center and live on campus or within one mile of campus, the Olin Health Center Courtesy Van can give you a free ride to your appointment. Call 517-353-4700 to schedule a ride.
  • If you live on campus, there is a clinic in your neighborhood! Find the nearest clinic and call 517-353-4660 to schedule your appointment. To find the nearest clinic, go to the Olin Neighborhood Clinic website.

Spouses

F-2 and J-2 spouses can receive medical care at Olin Health Center. 

Children

F-2 and J-2 children cannot receive medical care at Olin Health Center. Children can receive medical care at MSU Health Team Pediatrics or with any provider that is considered in-network for your health insurance plan.

Getting Help Off-Campus When Olin is Closed

Scholars who are sick or hurt when the Olin Health Center is closed can seek medical care off-campus. There are three types of resources students in this situation should use:

Urgent Care Centers

In the United States, it is best to visit a facility called an Urgent Care Center for most common illnesses or injuries. At an Urgent Care Center, no appointments are needed and students can usually see a doctor quickly (within one hour). The cost for treatment is much lower than an Emergency Room (“ER”). You can find the locations of Urgent Care Centers located close to MSU's campus on our Local Health Facilities Map (PDF).

Hospital Emergency Rooms (or "ER") 

Students should only use a hospital emergency room when facing a serious illness or injury. In most countries around the world, people can visit hospitals for any kind of illness or injury, even if it is a minor condition. In the United States, students should only use the ER when the condition is a serious emergency. It is a common mistake for international students to go to the ER when experiencing a minor illness or injury. Students who make this mistake often wait for several hours to see a doctor and end up paying a high price for their medical care. However, when the injury or illness is severe or if an illness or injury is not improving with medical care from another doctor, the ER is the right place to go.

Below are examples of appropriate conditions for ER treatment:

  • Loss of conciousness
  • Signs of a heart attack that last 2 minutes or longer, which include chest pain or chest pain radiating to the left arm
  • Signs of a stroke, which include sudden onset of numbness in any extremity and elevated blood pressure
  • A major injury, such as a head injury
  • Bleeding that does not stop after 10 minutes of direct pressure
  • Sudden severe pain
  • Severe shortness of breath
  • A severe or worsening reaction to an insect bite or sting, or to a medication, especially if breathing is affected
  • Unexplained stupor, drowsiness or disorientation
  • Poisoning
  • Coughing up or vomiting blood
  • Suicidal or homicidal feelings
  • Anything else you reasonably believe may be an emergency

911 Emergency Line

If you or someone near you is in a life-threatening situation, always dial 911 from any phone. An ambulance, police officers, or fire engine will be sent to your location. 

How to Get Help With Your Medical Bills

What to expect after seeking medical care

1. "Explanation of Benefits" (EOB)

The insurance company will send you a form called the "Explanation of Benefits" (EOB). This form may be sent to you electronically or in the mail. The EOB is not a medical bill. The purpose of EOB is to tell you what portion of a claim was paid to the health care provider by the insurance company and what portion of the payment, if any, you are responsible for. If you have questions concerning your EOB, please contact the toll-free number on your insurance card or visit OISS for assistance.

2. Medical bills

In addition to the EOB, you will receive bills in the mail from the medical service providers. At times, you may incur multiple bills.

Where to get help with the EOB or the bill

If you have questions regarding your bills or EOBs, please visit OISS during walk-in hours (1-3pm: Monday – Friday) to meet with a health advisor. If you are unavailable during the walk-in hours, please contact ihealth(at)msu.edu to schedule an appointment.

Please bring your health insurance card, all of the bills and explanations of benefits that have been received to your appointment.

Learn more

Click Understanding the EOB for more information. 

Click How Health Insurance Works for more information (Includes definitions of words found on the EOB).

Family Members

Health Insurance Requirements J-2 Family Members

Health insurance coverage is a requirement of all Exchange Visitors in J-1 or J-2 status

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) has established the following minimum insurance requirements:

  • Medical insurance must cover the entire period of participation in the Exchange Visitor program.
  • Medical benefits must provide a minimum of $100,000 per accident or illness.
  • Medical evacuation must be covered in the amount of $50,000, minimum.
  • Repatriation must be covered in the amount of $25,000, minimum.
  • The deductible must not exceed $500 per accident or illness.
  • Coinsurance must not exceed 25% of covered benefit expense per accident or illness.

Finding a Pediatrician for Children

Children are not eligible to be seen at the Olin Student Health Center. 

You do not need a referral from your assigned Primary Care Provider (PCP), in order to take your child to a pediatrician. Just search for an in-network pediatrician and make an appointment with them. 

To search for an in-network pediatrician, you have two options:

1. Call the phone number on the back of your insurance card for customer service.

2. Search online at Blue Care Network

  • Login
  • Click "Find a Doctor"
  • We strongly recommend you register to get better online service from Blue Care Network, but it is not required. 
  • If you do not register or login, click "Search without logging in". 
  • Click “All plans” and select "Employer Group Plans". Scroll down to "Michigan State University Graduate Assistant and Student Health Plans" and choose “Student Health Services Network (Within 45 miles of Olin Health Center)”.
  • Type in "East Lansing, MI" at “Your Location” and type in "pediatrics" in the search bar.
  • Find a doctor who is either "Accepting new patients" or "Accepting some new patients" and call the doctor to make an appointment. 

It can take many days or weeks to see a pediatrician as a new patient. If your child needs to be seen right away for a non-life threatening illness or injury, call an Urgent Care to find out if they can treat your child. Be sure to tell the Urgent Care your child's age as some Urgent Care facilities have age restrictions for young children and babies. Find Urgent Care facilities on our Local Health Facilities Map (PDF).

Family Health Insurance Award Program

The Family Health Insurance Award Program (FHIAP) offers international students the funding needed to purchase health insurance for their dependent family member(s) who need coverage. 

FHIAP has two award cycles each year. Applications for funding to buy health insurance for the fall semester are due in early September. Applications for funding to buy health insurance for the spring semester are due in early January. 

Awardees can renew their awards for continued coverage and assistance. 

Eligible
Dependents of students and scholars who are not U.S. Citizens.

Not Eligible
U.S. citizens are not eligible to be covered by FHIAP because they are eligible to apply for Medicaid. (Children who were born in the United States are U.S. citizens.)

Learn more about Medicaid in Michigan

Current Application Deadline

For Spring Semester 2018 apply by Friday, January 19, 2018. Application form will be available in early January.

Questions?

Email ihealth(at)msu.edu.

U.S. Citizen Children

Dependents who are U.S. citizens, such as children born in the United States, are able to apply for Medicaid.

Medicaid is health insurance provided by the U.S. government for citizens who cannot otherwise afford health insurance. Go to Medicaid in Michigan for more information.

Health Department Resources: Health & Vaccination Clinics

Ingham County Health Department

The Ingham County Health Department has many resources for families. The Ingham County Health Department website contains information on a variety of topics, such as low-cost vaccines, dental care, vision care, speech and hearing health care, and prenatal care for families expecting a baby.

Health & Vaccination Clinics

Ingham County Health Department Health Clinics for Pediatric Care

Ingham County Immunization Clinic

Vaccine Halloween 

is an annual vaccination event, hosted in October at MSU’s International Center. The event offers low-cost and free vaccines for families and children. Many vaccines are available, including the flu vaccine and the HPV vaccine. There are Halloween-themed crafts, a costume closet, Halloween photo booth, and a family resource fair, as well. Keep checking our website and follow us on social media for more information.

Dental & Vision

Dental Insurance

Pediatric Dental coverage through MSU student health insurance

Students and Scholars who enroll in the MSU Blue Care Network Student Health Insurance Plan have access to a variety of pediatric dental services for their children. Go to page 18 of the Blue Care Network MSU Student Health Plan Member Guide for a complete list of dental care for children offered by the plan. 

Delta Dental Optional Dental Coverage

Michigan State University also offers optional dental insurance coverage to graduate assistants, students, and dependent family members through Delta Dental.

Coverage and Enrollment Dates for the MSU Delta Dental Plan for 2018 Spring Semester are:

Open Enrollment: November 1, 2017 through February 28, 2018

Coverage Period: January 1, 2018 through December 31, 2018

Learn more about the Delta Dental Student Plan and how to enroll at MSU Student Benefits

Delta Dental Patient Direct Discount Plan

Delta Dental Patient Direct Discount Plan is an easy and inexpensive alternative to dental insurance. This option is a way for you and your family to save money on the health care products and services that you need, including discounts on dental, vision and hearing care, and prescription drugs. For an annual fee of $80 per household, you and your family will have access to a variety of discounted health care services. Learn more about Delta Dental's Patient Direct Discount Plan.

LCC Dental Clinic

The Lansing Community College Dental Clinic is a great resource for students and their families to receive low-cost dental hygiene care. The dental clinic consists of highly trained dental hygienists and licensed clinic dentists dedicated to serving the Greater-Lansing community. For more information on the LCC Dental Clinic, please visit the LCC Dental Clinic website.

Vision Insurance

VSP optional vision coverage

Michigan State University offers graduate assistants, students, and dependent family members with comprehensive vision coverage through Vision Service Plan (VSP). Those interested in vision insurance may enroll in the VSP coverage option at any time on the MSU Student Vision Insurance website.