Do UK-Based Foreign Students Need Medical Insurance?

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  • Post last modified:October 19, 2022

The United Kingdom (UK) is among the premiere destinations for international students to come and study. Its education system is renowned for its academic excellence and globally recognized by thousands of employers, universities, and governments.

Another reason why the UK is sought after by foreigners is that they prioritize the optimal well-being of all students. They work hard to ensure that every local and foreign student is safe and well-supported during their studies.

In fact, all international students enjoy the benefits of the UK’s healthcare system in the same way as British citizens. Despite this, it’s still advised to carry international private medical insurance for guaranteed timely care. For more relevant information, continue to read on.

National Healthcare System (NHS)

The UK’s healthcare system, called National Healthcare System (NHS), is one of the first universal health systems in the world. Not only that, it offers first-class, safe, and state-of-the-art treatment and support, making it among the world’s best healthcare systems.

As mentioned, the main advantage of the NHS is that it’s universal. It provides comprehensive physical and mental healthcare services to everyone. By “everyone,” it means all legal residents in Britain, regardless of income, tax or insurance contributions, nationality, or even visa status.

NHS services are free of charge at the point of use, but some procedures may need additional payment.

NHS for International Students

The accessibility to NHS services still depends on every migrant’s length of stay. For example, an international student with Tier 4 General Student Visa should stay for more than six months in the UK to access the NHS services. These students are usually studying full-time in the UK.

However, if the student is only staying for less than six months, they will not be eligible to use NHS service even if they hold the same Tier 4 General Student Visa. The same goes for a Student Visitor. If either of these is the case for you, it’s recommended that you take out private medical insurance coverage during your stay in the UK.

Here’s the summary:

  • Eligible for NHS Services:
  • Tier 4 General Student Visa for more than six months
  • Ineligible for NHS Services (Advised to Get Private Health Insurance):
  • Tier 4 General Student Visa for under six months
  • Student Visitor

If you think you’ll have trouble covering medical costs that aren’t covered by your original medical insurance abroad, you can opt for supplemental insurance. Private companies typically sell them to help you cover out-of-pocket costs, such as deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance.

One example of this extra health insurance is Medicare. They come at various prices, so try to research first and look up resources, such as Assurance medicare quotes, and see which plan suits your needs and budget.

IHS for International Students

The immigration health surcharge (IHS) that every international student should acquire costs £470 per year of their intended stay. However, if VISA’s duration has part of the year that’s six months or below, you’ll have to pay £275 for that part of your stay.

Once you’ve paid for the IHS, here are a few of the NHS services you’re eligible to access for FREE:

  • COVID-19 vaccinations, tests, and treatment
  • NHS hospital treatment
  • General practitioner (GP) services
  • Accident and Emergency (A&E) services
  • Diagnosis and treatment for certain infectious diseases
  • Palliative care services
  • Sexual health, contraceptive, and family planning services
  • Psychiatric treatment, especially those court-ordered, such as any conditions of domestic or sexual violence

Prescription Costs

When it comes to medicines, it’s not always free of charge. The cost depends on where in the UK you’re currently registered. For example, in England, prescriptions cost around £9.35 per item.

However, your prescription will be free if you’re a minor (under 19 years old), full-time student, pregnant, or senior (over 60 years old) in England. Most prescriptions are also free of charge in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

NHS Registration as International Students

After paying for IHS as part of your student VISA, register with a general practitioner (GP) at a doctor’s medical, clinic, or surgery centre in the UK. Once you do so, you’ll get an NHS number and can finally access NHS services.

As soon as you arrive in the UK, register with a GP and don’t wait until you’re taken ill. The following are the typical documents that GPs look for:

  • Passport
  • Relevant immigration or visa documents
  • Proof of enrollment from your university

Final Thoughts

It’s important to remember that IHS costs are a part of the student visa application, so they can’t be avoided. Even if you’re already insured or are planning to take out private medical insurance once you arrive in the UK, you still have to pay for IHS. This should be done before registering with a general practitioner (GP) to get an NHS number.

Linda Chavez

I'm a burial & senior life insurance expert, independent agent, Founder & CEO of Seniors Life Insurance Finder. I have been working in this sector since 2004 and established my own company in 2014. I have a team of seven members, and we are trying hard to share the knowledge we've gathered. We know how difficult often it is to find an affordable policy. Hence, we are doing our best to help you.