Medical Care, Immunization & Health Insurance
Health care in the U.S. may be quite different from that of your home country. Medical treatment in the Boston area is very good, but American health care can be expensive—there is no socialized or national health care system in the U.S. Health insurance is necessary to help defray those costs.
In addition, federal and state regulations have insurance mandates that you will need to be aware of and comply with during your stay in the U.S., including requirements specific to students in Massachusetts, residents of Massachusetts and J-1 exchange visitors. While the ISSO strives to give you the most up-to-date information on insurance requirements, we cannot monitor whether specific insurance plans meet the requirements – ultimately it is your responsibility to make sure you have the proper coverage to meet any requirements that apply to you.
Mandatory Health Insurance for Massachusetts Residents
Massachusetts has a standard of minimum coverage which is required for all persons residing in the state (note that for the purpose of Massachusetts insurance coverage, the term “residing” applies to all persons who live in the state during a given year). Failure to maintain adequate health insurance coverage to meet the Massachusetts requirements may result in tax penalties. More information can be found on the Attorney General for Massachusetts’ website.
Researcher, Faculty, and Staff Medical Insurance
Eligibility for insurance will vary depending on your BU appointment. In addition, for employees and scholars in the J-1 classification must be sure to comply with the additional insurance requirements for J-1 Exchange Visitors. Please review the appropriate section below to determine your options.
Health Insurance Benefits for Boston University Employees
Health insurance policy options through BU may be available for BU employees, provided the employment will last at least 9 months and will be at least 50% time. Part‐time employees (less than 50% time) and scholars employed for less than 9 months (regardless of % time) do not qualify for BU employee insurance plans.
BU researchers who are J-1 Exchange Visitors should note the following:
Health insurance policies available through BU do not include provisions covering medical evacuation and repatriation of remains. A supplemental insurance policy will be necessary to cover these specific requirements:
- BETA: Basic Emergency Travel Assistance
- Insubuy, Inc.
- International SOS – Visitor USA Medical Evacuation and Repatriation Program
- The Harbour Group – Medical Evacuation and Repatriation Plan
The ISSO recommends employees in the J-1 classification select the Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO Plan when choosing their coverage plan as the other option available to BU employees does not meet the J-1 requirements related to annual deductibles.
It is important to plan accordingly as health insurance coverage offered through BU generally becomes effective on the first of the month on or after the start date of employment. The Office Human Resources offers weekly new employee orientation sessions for benefits eligible employees and will provide more details about health insurance. Please contact them with questions related to your employment benefits.
Health Insurance Options for Non-Benefits-Eligible Employees & Affiliates
If you do not meet the eligibility requirements above, you will still need to obtain adequate health insurance for your stay at BU. Requirements for Massachusetts residents and J-1 exchange visitors must be met regardless of your BU affiliation. Please review the following options for obtaining the required coverage:
- Home country health insurance policy—Certain countries offer health insurance coverage to their citizens abroad, which may meet the established J-1 requirements. If you are in J-1 status and opt for coverage under a foreign insurance policy, you must be certain the policy is accepted in the U.S. and complies with all insurance coverage requirements. Please pay attention to whether an expiration of benefits exists after a period of absence from the home country. If the policy does not cover requirements for medical evaluation and repatriation of remains, a supplementary policy must be purchased to cover these provisions (see below).
- Direct purchase of coverage to meet the Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA) minimum requirements – In addition to the J-1 medical coverage requirements, the ACE requires every person who is a U.S. resident alien for tax purposes to have health insurance that meets “minimum essential health coverage” guidelines. These plans are generally more comprehensive than the J-1 minimums so are a good option for those who prefer more substantial coverage. Insurance policies available through the ACA do not include provisions covering medical evacuation and repatriations of remains. A supplemental policy will be necessary to cover those specific requirements (see below). New J-1 scholars may likely be exempt from the ACA “minimum essential health coverage” mandate for the first two calendar years of their J-1 program (unless they have a prior US visa history). Information regarding enrollment options for direct purchase of ACA compliant plans can be found on the Massachusetts Health Connector website. Please be careful of lower cost programs offered through MassHealth as acceptance of these benefits may make you a Public Charge and effect your eligibility for future immigration benefits.
- Coverage & benefits for non-employee postdocs – BU offers a coverage option for non-employee postdocs. Please consult with Professional Development & Postdoctoral Affairs to determine eligibility and to obtain enrollment forms.
- Coverage offered through a private insurance company— Many private insurance companies offer medical insurance plans with coverage that meet or exceed the J‐1 minimums. Many of these plans include coverage for medical evacuation and repatriation of remains and conformity with ACA requirements. In the event that the health insurance policy you have selected does not cover medical evacuation and repatriation components required by J‐1 regulation, you will need to purchase a supplemental policy. The following companies offer plans that meet the J-1 minimum insurance requirements (By listing them here, we are not specifically recommending them or attesting to their credibility or reliability):
- BETA: Basic Emergency Travel Assistance – Patriot Exchange Program, StudentSecure, Seven Corners Liaison Student, Student Health Advantage Plan & Student Health Advantage Platinum Plan
- CISI: Cultural Insurance Services International –World Class International Students & Scholars Program
- Insubuy – J1/J2 Visa (Exchange Visitor) Insurance
- ISO Insurance – J-1 Exchange Plan, COMPASS Gold, COMPASS Silver, ISO Med 1 & ISO Med 2.
- The Harbor Group – International Plus Student and Scholar Medical Insurance Plan
- Wallach & Company – HealthCare America Plan (for visits under 90 days) & HealthCare International Plan
Student Medical Insurance
All Boston University students are automatically enrolled each year in the Boston University Student Medical Insurance Plan administered by Aetna Student Health. This plan was designed for your safety and well-being. You will be charged for the basic medical insurance plan on your tuition bill.
If you already have medical insurance coverage from another source (for example, through a company that sponsors your study in the United States), you may request a waiver of this fee and un-enroll in the Boston University Student Medical Insurance Plan by completing the waiver form and providing proof of comparable insurance to Student Accounting Services. An alternate insurance plan must meet strict requirements in order for you to qualify for the waiver. With very few exceptions, state law prohibits BU from accepting coverage by an insurance company outside the United States. Before enrolling for coverage or renewing coverage in an insurance plan other than Boston University’s student health plan, check with Student Accounting Services to determine whether it meets the waiver requirements.
Please visit Student Accounting Services Medical Insurance for more information regarding:
- Waiver forms and deadlines
- Comparable medical insurance requirements
- Student Plus plan
- Purchasing medical insurance coverage for dependent family members
Please visit Aetna Student Health to:
- Read detailed information about the Boston University Student Medical Insurance Plan
- Print a copy of your medical insurance card
Student Health Services
Boston University offers exceptional medical and wellness care to all full-time students at this on-campus facility. From coughs and colds to asthma and acne, they have a staff of expert clinicians to meet your medical needs in a caring and confidential environment. Medical services include gynecological care, men’s health care, sports medicine, minor office procedures, referrals to specialists, and massage therapy. Wellness & Prevention Services supports your well-being with resources and up-to-date information on topics such as stress relief, nutrition, smoking cessation, and much more. All students pay mandatory fees (which are separate from any medical insurance fees) so they can take full advantage of medical care and support services throughout their academic program.
Visit Student Health Services for detailed information and to make an appointment.
Student Immunization and Health Forms
Massachusetts state law requires that all students be immunized (vaccinated) against certain communicable diseases. There are several policies and procedures that you must follow to comply with immunization requirements at Boston University, which includes submitting the completed Incoming Student Health Forms before you arrive on campus. If students do not receive the required immunizations and submit the necessary forms before they arrive on campus, there may be serious consequences, such as not being allowed to attend classes.
For more information on the immunization requirements and forms, please visit Student Health Services.