Ask Brian: Is private health cover mandatory for foreign students?

Insurance for student visas is determined by the Garda National Immigration Bureau

Health insurance policies for persons under the age of 55 usually have a waiting period of 26 weeks in which no claims can be made. Photo: iStock

Health insurance policies for persons under the age of 55 usually have a waiting period of 26 weeks in which no claims can be made. Photo: iStock

 

Question: I am a Brazilian student about to begin my second year of studies. I was advised to take out an overseas medical expenses policy in my first year, which cost €40 under my student visa. This year I have been told that I have to take out full private health insurance. This is far more expensive and I cannot afford it. Can you tell me what I should do?

Answer: Irish immigration services requires that students from outside the European Economic Area take out heath insurance cover for emergency medical expenses.

Many international students avail of the type of inusurance policy you have, which costs between €40 and €150 a year. I believe it is similar to travel insurance which any Irish person would take out if they were travelling outside of Ireland on holidays.

In recent times, the Health Insurance Authority (HIA) has written to the main providers of these policies informing them that they do not comply with health insurance legislation for "ordinarily resident" individuals or, in other words, students from outside the European Economic Area attending a course for more than one academic year.

I have been advised by the HIA that it has directed one of the biggest insurance providers to cease selling these more basic policies to "ordinarily resident" persons by March 3rd.

Instead, it says contracts being sold to students based here for more than one academic year must meet the requirements of legisation, with features such as community rating, lifetime cover and minimum benefits.

In other words, affected students will need more comprehensive private health cover. As a result. the cost of policies for many international students is likely to jump to anywhere between €450 and €1,000.

The HIA says it has no role in setting the costs or minimum standards for policies. Its only concern is to ensure health insurers comply with Irish health insurance laws.

Regardless, I cannot believe that many in Government who are travelling the world promoting Ireland as an attractive destination for those seeking education in the international market are too happy with these developments.

Currently, the negative messages emanating from the UK regarding the numbers of foreign students entering Britain, is opening up a wonderful marketing opportunity for those tasked with promoting Ireland as an education destination worldwide.