Health insurance for international students in the UK is an essential aspect if you want to live in the UK without worrying about medical costs. The international student numbers in the United Kingdom have increased quite rapidly over the years, and the growth is continuing by the day. This country is one of the most popular study destinations among international students and, apart from having one of the best education systems in the world, it is home to the famous national health system also known as the National Health Service (NHS).
As of September 2019, there were a total of 276,889 Tier 4 (sponsored study) visas granted in the UK, the highest it has ever been ever since 2011. The UK has some of the best universities in the world, recognized for their world-class education and high quality teaching. In addition, international students in the UK enjoy a diverse and welcoming environment where they feel free to socialize, study, and simply enjoy the UK experience. Now, to truly enjoy the UK experience, let’s learn more about Health Insurance for international students in the UK.
Do I need Health Insurance to study in the UK?
If you are an international student heading towards the UK, then yes, you need health insurance. However, the health insurance you can acquire depends on the length of your study programme. More specifically, you can access the National Health Service (NHS) as an international student in the UK, only if your study programme is 6 months or longer. If otherwise, then you should opt for a private insurance company. The same goes if you are a student visitor, you should still take out private health insurance.
Why is Health Insurance important for international students in the UK?
Firstly, having health insurance means you can gain access to high-quality service in hospitals, private offices, emergency rooms, and more. You won’t have to worry about the medical bills in case anything occurs, therefore you will enjoy a more comfortable stay while in the UK.
In addition, health insurance is one of the main requirements when applying for a visa, not only in the UK, but anywhere. Therefore, it is essential to obtain health insurance, be it from NHS or any other private provider.
International students are not the only ones who need health insurance, the service is available to residents as well. However, one of the reasons health insurance is specifically important to international students is because it ensures students won’t have to worry about medical costs while they are away from their home country and family.
What does the National Health Service (NHS) cover for international students in the UK?
The National Health Service, as previously mentioned, is one of the most popular health insurance services in the world. International students can also gain access to NHS, only if their study programme is 6 month or longer. Otherwise, they will have to check for other private insurance services. The National Health Service covers a large number of benefits, more specifically, you will be receiving the same services as UK residents. NHS offers free GP (General Practitioner) visits, office visits, emergency treatment, psychiatric treatment, and more. See below:
Free of charge services, if you are eligible for NHS:
- Consulting your GP
- Hospital treatment in Accident or Emergency services
- Hospital treatment recommended by your GP
- Maternity services
- Contraceptive services
However, you will be required to pay for prescribed medicine and other GP services such as travel vaccinations, dental, and optical treatments.
Residents of England, Wales, and Scotland can dial 111 if they need help but it is not an emergency (a 24-hour service by phone).
How can I gain access to the National Health Service (NHS)?
International students, who will be in the UK for more than 6 months, can have access to the National Health Service while pursuing their degree in the UK. However, how they gain access to NHS depends on their country of domicile:
- Students from the EU should have a European Health Insurance Card (short: EHIC) that gives them the right to benefit from free NHS treatment.
- Non-EEA international students are required to pay an annual surcharge for the duration that the visa is granted. The full annual amount for more than 6 months is £300. Dependants will also be required to pay the surcharge. This surcharge can be paid as part of the visa application, and in case the application is not successful, you will be refunded the money (not the application fee).
How to register with a GP practice?
One of the first things you should do when you arrive in the UK is to find a doctor and register. Make sure you compare GP practices according to location, facilities, services, and performance before you make your decision. The GP practice must accept you unless it has no capacity to take new patients, or other reasons such as:
- It may not be accepting patients outside of its practice boundary.
- In your circumstances, it is better that you register somewhere close to where you live.
The GP practice must not refuse you due to reasons relating to race, gender, age, social class, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or medical condition.
When you register with a GP practice, make sure you keep these in mind:
- For any health concern, make sure to visit your GP first so they can get you a referral to see a specialist if necessary.
- If you have any medical emergency, call 999 for an ambulance, or if you do not need an ambulance, visit the emergency department at the hospital (open 24-hours a day).
- All GP practices offer online services to book or cancel appointments, order repeat prescriptions, and see parts of your medical record.
Will I be charged for prescription medication?
Although Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland do not charge for prescriptions; in England they might ask you to pay. However, you are entitled to free prescriptions if:
- You are under 16 years of age.
- You are 16-18 and studying full-time.
- You are pregnant, have had a baby in the previous 12 months, and have a valid maternity exemption certificate, MatEx.
- You have a continuing physical ability that prevents unassisted movement and have a medical exemption certificate, MedEx.
- You have a specified medical condition and MedEx.
Will I be charged for dental care?
Dental care is usually not included in the Health Insurance. However, if the criteria below applies to you, then you will have access to free NHS dental care:
- You are under 18, or under 19 and studying full-time.
- You are pregnant or have had a baby in the previous 12 months.
- You are staying in an NHS hospital and the dentist in the hospital carries out the treatment.