If you’re in school, you most likely have supplemental health and dental insurance. Some educational institutions make this mandatory by including the cost in your tuition fees. However, if you’re a new grad, you may be getting accustomed to managing health insurance on your own (as opposed to through your parents or school). Here’s a quick lesson on what health insurance is, how it works, where you can buy it and the benefits you can receive. 

What is health insurance?

A health insurance plan helps to cover the costs of your medical and dental bills. Depending on the provider and type of plan you choose, health insurance can cover a number of health-related expenses. Coverage typically includes prescription drugs, vision care, dental care, medical equipment and visits to medical practitioners (such as physiotherapists, dietitians and registered massage therapists). 

How does health insurance work for students?

Depending on your school, you may be automatically enrolled in the health insurance plan that’s offered to students. Once you’re enrolled, you can download a copy of the plan details. You’ll also receive a benefits card that will have your plan identification on it. You will need to present this card to your healthcare provider at every visit when paying for your services (in my experience, most providers will keep this information in your file).

Health insurance for students in university: How it works

How can students access their benefits?

Some health and dental service providers set up direct billing. This means they bill the insurance company directly, and you will only be required to pay the balance not covered by your plan. If they don’t have direct billing, then you’ll need to pay the full amount out of pocket, and then submit an online claim with your receipt to receive reimbursement. It can take several business days to assess your claim and for the amount to be deposited into your bank account. 

Health insurance for international students in Canada

If you’re an international or foreign-exchange student, you’ll need to research the health insurance for the particular province or territory in which you are studying. Some provinces provide health coverage to international students that is either free or for an added cost, and you’ll be required to apply through the province. 

For example, international students studying at a university in Ontario must obtain mandatory health care coverage through the University Health Insurance Plan (UHIP), a not-for-profit insurance plan created by Ontario’s universities that is comparable to the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). 

In other cases where provincial health insurance is not offered, students need to purchase personal health insurance, typically through their school in Canada. Be sure to check if these health plans are mandatory or optional. 

What happens to students when they leave school and no longer have coverage? 

If you’re no longer in school and find yourself without any health insurance coverage, you’re not alone. Acquiring your own health insurance plan could be the solution—if you’re concerned about paying for hefty medical bills that may arise due to an injury or illness while finding employment. This can help bridge the gap while you’re looking to get a job offer from an employer that provides health insurance.


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