Some Binghamton University international students studying from their home countries this semester have to pay for the University health plan, even if they already have a plan at home.
According to the International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) page, it is rare for students to get their insurance waived. Some of the requirements needed for an outside plan to substitute the BU insurance plan includes emergency and non-emergency medical care, treatment for preexisting conditions and maternity services. A more extensive, detailed list can be found at https://www.binghamton.edu/international/student-scholar-services/health-insurance/ins-waiv.html.
Nazli Guler, a senior majoring in computer science, is part of a group of international students from Turkey who oppose BU’s insurance policy and these requirements.
“We are a group of 20 people who [are] against a policy of the University,” Guler said. “Even [though] we are not physically in the United States right now, the University is requiring us to pay for health insurance that we don’t even use. We want to waive it from our tuition.”
According to Guler, students from her group said they are not willing to pay fees for something they do not need, and the issue is a matter of principle over financial concern.
“The issue is that [BU] is trying to rob international students in every aspect,” Guler said. “We are paying the highest rates, highest fees, highest everything and, also, they are requiring us to pay for something we don’t use.”
Patricia Bello, director of the ISSS and assistant provost of international education and global affairs, wrote in an email that BU’s policy has to do with international students demonstrating they are on a comparable health care plan which can substitute the SUNY plan.
“International students are automatically enrolled in the SUNY-contracted international health insurance plan, which includes worldwide coverage,” Bello wrote. “That said, students also have the option to apply for an insurance waiver by showing proof of comparable health insurance coverage. Our goal is to make the insurance enrollment and/or waiver process as user-friendly and seamless as possible, while ensuring that students have necessary levels of required coverage.”
Guler said she submitted her insurance for review, but it was not accepted, while her friends at other schools have not had the same problem.
“I have friends [at the University at] Buffalo, they are not paying for it since they are not in the United States right now,” Guler said. “They didn’t accept my insurance, they just said, ‘It’s not meeting our standards.’ A couple of my friends also sent their insurance, but they said, ‘It’s not meeting SUNY standards,’ but [the insurance] is covering everything. I don’t know what they are trying to do.”
While there is no specific SUNY position on waiving health insurance, the policy outlined on the University at Buffalo’s website is similar to the one described by Bello.
“You will only be permitted a waiver of the cost of the SUNY health insurance if your policy matches or exceeds the policy available through SUNY and is approved by [the University at Buffalo’s] Student Health Insurance Office,” the policy reads.
Bello added that the insurance provided by BU was meant to ensure the safety of students no matter where they were studying geographically and that this applied specifically to the current situation because of circumstances surrounding distance learning.
“This semester is unique in that continuing international students can engage in a full-time course load of [BU] distance-learning credits from anywhere,” Bello wrote. “Our policy, which has been vetted by administration and SUNY system, is meant to ensure that students have the appropriate levels of coverage, regardless of their physical location. In these unprecedented times, it is especially important that students have health insurance coverage that will offer them coverage anywhere in the world.”
Bello said BU was trying its best to work with international students and make sure they knew all of the University’s health plan options. Bello encourages students to reach out to the ISSS office in order to better understand what their best course of action is.
“The health and safety of our international students is of utmost priority to ISSS,” Bello wrote. “If international students have questions about their individual situation, we encourage them to contact our office directly so that we can advise them on their options. We are here to support our international students in these difficult situations.”