Multiple health plans required for select study-abroad programs

Students must purchase insurance from co-sponsored programs as well as the University’s plan.

Andy Mannix

Due to conflicting policies between the University’s learning abroad program and some co-sponsored programs, many students who study abroad end up paying for multiple international health insurance plans.

The University has a mandatory policy for students who are studying abroad to purchase a plan administered by Cultural Insurance Services International, at a cost of $34 per month.

However, many programs co-sponsored by the University also have their own mandatory insurance policies.

Martha Johnson, associate director of the Learning Abroad Center, said the University reviews co-sponsored programs’ plans to determine whether they meet the University’s coverage standards. If the coverage is up to par, students can substitute the approved plan for CISI. If not, they will have to purchase both plans.

“It’s not that we’re totally inflexible,” Johnson said. “It’s that the coverage that many of the programs are choosing doesn’t do everything we’ve decided it needs to do, and there’s not much we can do about that.”

Johnson said three of more than a dozen co-sponsoring study abroad organizations have approved insurance plans.

The Indianapolis-based Institute for Study Abroad, Butler Institute, is one such institution whose programs have a mandatory insurance policy the University didn’t approve.

“It’s not enough,” Johnson said about Butler’s coverage.

Johnson said she didn’t know the specific requirements Butler failed to meet, and that the ultimate decision is made by the University’s risk manager.

However, there is currently no one holding the position of risk manager at the University, and there hasn’t been for about a year, said Pam Ubel of the Office of Risk Management and Insurance.

Kathleen Walden, assistant director for communications at Butler, said the institute started mandating a plan developed by Compass Benefits Group about two years ago. She said the mandate came in response to requests from parents of students in the program.

Walden said there haven’t been many complaints about the mandatory policy, and she isn’t aware of any instances where the extra cost prevented a student from participating in the program.

“To my knowledge, students are happy to have a couple of coverages if necessary,” she said.

The Danish Institute for Study Abroad is another co-sponsored program that requires a separate plan related to Denmark’s national health insurance coverage.

Mary Malone, DIS lead adviser, said anyone who studies abroad in Denmark is required to purchase the country’s national health insurance plan.

“It’s included in the overall fees, but it is required in order to be able to remain in Denmark for the period of time of the semester,” Malone said.

Because the fee is rolled into the overall program price, Malone said it isn’t possible to determine how much the insurance costs each student per month.

Meredith Neumann, a family social science senior, returned from a year of studying in Denmark through the DIS program last May.

“I can understand why they’d want to have a blanket policy,” Neumann said. “Not every country and every program is going to have their own, and if something happens to a kid abroad, they have to be able to cover themselves Ö But at the same time, it’s not like I would like paying for more than I have to.”

Johnson said the decision to make the CISI policy mandatory is a safety precaution because of past problems.

“Within our industry, there have been deaths, and car accidents, and bombs gone off in London,” she said. “We know what the stakes are. You have to do everything you can.”