When studying abroad, it is vital that you know in advance what to expect from the healthcare system of the country to which you are travelling. In the UK, comprehensive and free healthcare is provided by the National Health Service, consistently rated as one of the more efficient systems on the planet. Not every country has a similar level of comprehensive care, and you will need to have some kind of insurance in place before you leave the UK.
If you are going to study in the European Economic Area (EEA), then things can be considerably simpler than they are in other destinations. Here, you will need a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The British Foreign Office can provide details about which countries are in the EEA, as some non-European Union (EU) states are a part of the EEA.
Elsewhere in the world, outside Europe, it can be vital that you take out personal insurance policies. Countries such as the USA do not have universal healthcare in place for their own citizens, so a foreigner needs to make sure that they are protected. This is especially true if you have pre-existing medical conditions, such as asthma or diabetes. Your health plan needs to cover the costs of repeat prescriptions and visits to a doctor
It is also important to check that your insurance plan covers any dental work that you may need. Sometimes it is necessary to take out a separate policy for this. Dental care can be difficult to access for free in the UK, and if you are travelling to a less-developed country then it can be very hard indeed to find a dentist. If you have pre-existing dental conditions which will require treatment while you are away, then it is vital that you establish availability and access, as well as insurance cover, before you travel.
It is also important that you check the small print of any insurance policies that you take out. Some students have come up short when they find that their health insurance does not conform exactly to local regulations. This can be especially true in the United States, where an often labyrinthine set of rules and regulations can govern healthcare polices, with differences from state to state. This can lead to greater expense, as well as bureaucratic hassle, which is the last thing you need when trying to settle into a new life abroad.
If you have a disability
, it is also vital that you check healthcare provision before you travel. It can be a good idea to try and contact local doctors in the city where you are planning to study several months before you go, to ensure that all the support you might need can be provided.
Your health is the most important thing in your life, and you need the peace of mind that being properly insured or covered provides. Never neglect sorting out your healthcare plans before you travel. Being hit with a large bill if you are struck down with injury or illness can be almost as bad as being sick.