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Health Insurance for J-1 Exchange Visitors

Please note that failure to maintain adequate health insurance is considered to be a violation of the Exchange Visitor Program regulations, which will result in termination from the program.

The Department of State (DOS) requires all J-1 exchange visitors and their accompanying (or following to join) J-2 dependents  to have and maintain health insurance for the entire duration of their DS-2019.  The J-1 Exchange Visitor is ultimately responsible for acquiring sufficient health insurance for the entire duration of stay in the U.S. Some exchange visitors will receive health insurance as part of their employment package with NC State. Most exchange visitors will have to purchase insurance independently, and make arrangements before they arrive to the U.S., or soon after their arrival. If the health insurance plan offered by NC State is insufficient to cover the minimum requirements or is not valid for the entire duration of the DS-2019, the J-1 principal must acquire supplemental health insurance for themselves and their dependents no later than the day they arrive on campus. An Exchange Visitor or accompanying dependent who willfully fails to maintain the minimum level of insurance coverage established by the Department of State will be in violation of these regulations and will be subject to termination from the Exchange Visitor program. Please note that this requirement holds even if the exchange visitor or J-2 dependents are temporarily abroad.

Minimum coverage must provide:

  • Medical benefits of at least $100,000 per accident or illness;
  • Repatriation of remains in the amount of $25,000
  • Expenses associated with the medical evacuation of exchange visitors to his or her home country in the amount of $50,000
  • Deductibles not to exceed $500 per accident or illness.

In addition, insurance policies  

  • May require a waiting period for pre-existing conditions that is reasonable as determined by current industry standards;
  • May include provisions for co-insurance under the terms of which the exchange visitor may be required to pay up to 25% of the covered benefits per accident or illness; and
  • Must not unreasonable exclude coverage for perils inherent to the activities of the exchange program in which the exchange visitor participates.

Coverage for the family members of non‐ students is very expensive ‐ $3,000 or more per year for an adult couple with additional costs for children.  In the U.S., certain kinds of elective medical care, such as eyeglasses or dentistry, are ordinarily not covered by insurance, and they are very expensive. To the extent possible, Exchange Visitors should take care of those needs before leaving home or purchase supplementary vision or dental insurance.

OIS Recommended Health Insurance

OIS recommends the health insurance plan that the State of North Carolina has negotiated with GeoBlue.  The plan has been vetted by the State of North Carolina as well as OIS to ensure it meets the J-1 visa requirements, provides adequate coverage, and is reasonably priced.  For information on the plan itself including types and levels of coverage, deductibles, and co-pays, you can download the Plan Overview.

How to Enroll in GeoBlue Insurance for NC State Scholars

How To Enroll

  • Have your credit card ready and visit
  • Look for “Enroll in your school or organization’s group plan” on the right side of the home page.
  • Enter the “Group Access Code” (you must email to obtain this) and click “Submit”
  • Read the statement written by GeoBlue Insurance. If you agree, click ‘agree”
  • Click “new “ or “renew.”  If you have previously enrolled in the on line group self-enrollment previously, please click “renew” and enter the same name as previously. Otherwise click “new.”
  • The following information is needed to enroll:
    • Name
    • Date of Birth
    • Gender
    • Requested Insurance Coverage Start Date
    • Requested Insurance Coverage End Date
    • Email address
    • Mailing address
    • Home Country
    • Host Country

For assistance or questions regarding enrollment, please call GeoBlue at (888) 243-2358 and mention the group code.

Healthcare in the U.S

Routine health care in the U.S. will be provided by physicians in a clinic, not a hospital. If you need medical attention (which is not of an emergent nature), please visit a health clinic first.  Please follow these steps to ensure you receive medical attention when you need it:

  • You should establish with a primary care physician upon arrival to the U.S.  Sometimes, initial appointments can take up to a month to book, and most providers will not treat your illness until you have attended this initial appointment.  Thus, it is extremely important to establish yourself and your dependents upon arrival to the U.S.
  • The best way to find a physician is to go to the website of your health insurance provider and selecting a physician from their lists convenient to your location.  Make sure you call the physician’s office to ensure they are accepting new patients and will accept your health insurance policy.
  • For each visit to a clinic or hospital, make sure to bring your health insurance card with you. It is recommended that you carry this card with you at all times, in case of an emergency.
  • After care is received at a clinic or hospital, depending on your plan, you may be required to pay a co-pay to cover the costs of your visit or you may have to pay the full cost of services provided if your deductible has not been satisfied.  The amount of the co-pay and deductible should be listed on your health insurance card.
  • You can purchase medications, both prescription and non-prescription medication can be obtained from your local pharmacy (i.e. CVS, Walgreens, Rite-Aid) or a larger store (Wal-Mart, Target) or even some larger grocery stores.  Most prescription medication requires a co-pay (the amount of the co-pay should be listed on your health insurance card).

Commonly Used Health Care and Insurance Related Terms

Co-Insurance: The amount of a medical bill you are responsible for after your deductible has been met.  This is a set percentage and listed on your insurance benefits form or your health insurance card.  For example, “80/20” means after you have paid your deductible, the insurance will pay 80% of the medical claim and you are responsible for the remaining 20%.

Co-Pay: A fixed amount of money that must be paid by you for doctor’s visits and prescriptions. Your insurer will pay the rest.

Deductible: A specified amount of money that you must pay “out-of-pocket” before your insurance plan begins paying.

Inpatient Care: A procedure or service performed at a hospital that requires an overnight stay.

Limitations & Exclusions: Health-related procedures and items that your health insurance provider will not pay for.

Non-Prescription Medication: Also referred to as “over-the-counter,” this medication does not require a physician note and can be purchased with cash or credit at any pharmacy or grocery store.  These medications are usually paid for by insurance plans.

Outpatient: A procedure or service at a hospital or clinic that does not require an overnight hospital stay.

Pre-existing condition: A physical condition or illness you had before you enrolled in this health insurance plan. Many U.S. health insurance providers will not cover expenses related to illnesses you had before your enrollment.

Preferred Care Provider / In-Network Provider: A physician who is on your health insurance provider’s list of physicians to visit. If you visit this provider, your out-of-pocket costs are usually lower.

Premium: The (monthly) payment required to buy the health insurance plan and keep it in force.

Prescription Medication:  Medication that requires a signed note from your physician to purchase at a pharmacy.

Primary Care Physician: A general physician you have established routine care with.

Referral: When a doctor suggests that you visit another more specialized doctor for further health attention related to a specific health problem.

For more information about your health insurance benefits or to find a local physician (who will accept your health insurance), please consult the website of your health insurance plan.  Please review our handout for Health Insurance for J-1 Exchange Visitor guidelines and a list of providers.