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Health Insurance Abroad

Health Insurance Abroad

Lehigh University policy requires that you have sickness and injury insurance coverage in effect for the countries in which you will be traveling. If you don’t have health insurance and suddenly need it, it is too late. You and your family may face bills of tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Accidents happen even to healthy people!

What are my choices?

The main choice is between:

  • Health insurance valid in the U.S. and abroad (but note that some U.S. policies give little or no coverage outside the U.S.); Employees may contact Human Resources for instructions on how to find out if the University plan offered to employees extends internationally - BEFORE your trip.
  • Special health insurance valid only overseas; please check with International Affairs as coverage may be purchased through ISOS for an additional cost.

Note: We recommend that students purchase an International Student Identification Card (ISIC), which includes supplemental insurance at a very low cost. This should not be considered adequate as your only insurance coverage. This card is available at the Lehigh University Study Abroad Office, 32 Sayre Drive, Coxe Lab (610-758-3351).

Health Insurance Valid in the U.S. and Abroad (always check to be sure coverage is valid overseas)


  • Insurance through your parents’ policy
  • Lehigh University Student Injury and Sickness Insurance Plan (To purchase coverage, go to: www.universityhealthplans.com)
  • Insurance through your employer
  • Insurance purchased as an individual


  • Coverage in the U.S. – If you get sick or injured abroad, the policy will pay for treatment in the U.S., where you can get top quality care and be near your family.
  • Pre-existing conditions may be (though not always) covered – important if you have a medical condition which needs ongoing treatment. Remember that if you get sick or injured overseas and do not already have insurance, you will probably not be able to buy insurance which pays for treatment of that pre-existing condition (either in the U.S. or abroad).


  • If you buy the insurance in Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania regulations require insurance companies to provide coverage for pre-existing conditions;
  • U.S. policies only pay for treatment that is FDA approved.


  • Overseas restrictions - Some U.S. policies have no overseas coverage or have special conditions abroad, such as the requirement to get approval before treatment. Call your insurance company to inquire about special overseas restrictions, since these are rarely mentioned in brochures or policy statements.
  • Cost - Most policies which provide coverage for medical treatment in the U.S. are more expensive than special policies for overseas, simply because the cost of medical treatment in the U.S. is by far the most expensive in the world.

Special health insurance valid only overseas


  • Cost - Most special overseas policies are less expensive than equivalent policies valid in the U.S. because the cost of treatment abroad is less, and because they exclude coverage in the U.S.


  • No coverage in the U.S. – If you get sick or injured abroad (not to mention in the U.S., where policies usually offer no coverage), special overseas policies will not pay for treatment in the U.S.
  • No coverage for pre-existing conditions.

How do I choose a policy?

Perhaps the most important single factor apart from the above questions is the overall coverage amount provided, and the percentage paid at various coverage levels. A $50,000 policy may look good until you exceed that amount for medical evacuation only! A $100,000 policy at 80% could still leave you with a bill of $20,000 (if you maxed out the policy). Other considerations might include whether or not the policy provides coverage during brief return visits to the U.S. or, very specifically, what exactly is excluded from coverage (e.g., injuries resulting from specific sports or even things such as bungee-jumping).