Rice Unconventional Wisdom

Health Insurance/Medical Resources

J-1 scholars and their J-2 dependents are required to have health insurance for the duration of their program.

Scholars paid by Rice for a “benefits eligible” position may apply for coverage under the Rice employee Aetna group health insurance plan. Under this plan, you pay a portion of the insurance charges for yourself and your family. *Note: the Rice plan does not cover Repatriation and Medical Evacuation (ME&R) insurance, which you must purchase separately at a small cost (information available at OISS).

If you are coming in “complimentary” status, or are not considered eligible for Rice benefits, you will need to buy insurance coverage that meets all minimum legal requirements. The SAS/CHP alternate insurance policy is the preferred option to cover yourself and your family. Information about health insurance as well as some alternative insurance policy brochures are available in the OISS office.

Important note: At the time of your mandatory immigration check-in at OISS, you will be required to show proof of health insurance for you and your family. Failure to maintain adequate health insurance can, by law, result in the termination of your J-1 status. Both the Rice plan plus a supplemental ME&R plan, or the SAS alternate insurance plan, meet the legal visa requirements. Click here for more information on the J-1 health insurance requirement. If you select the Rice Aetna plan, here are instructions how to provide OISS proof of your enrollment.

Options to meet the J-1 legal requirements for J-1 scholars and their J-2 families:

1) Rice University Aetna plan (must be eligible for employee benefits) + supplemental medical evacuation & repatriation plan

2) SAS/CHP, approved alternate insurance plan meeting all minimum requirements – To enroll into the preferred SAS plan for the 2017-2018 academic year between 08/15/2017 and 08/14/2018 complete the electronic enrollment form. If your program at Rice involves two insurance plan years (2016/2017 until 08/14/2017, and 2017/2018 from 08/15/2017) you would need to complete a paper scholar’s enrollment form one for each plan year. Please email oiss@rice.edu or contact the insurance company directly for additional information and assistance.

3) Alternate insurance plan + supplemental medical evacuation & repatriation plan  – Rice internationals may choose to participate in an alternate insurance plan of their choice, so long as the insurance plan meets all the requirements listed below.

Please verify that the policy you choose meets all the J-1 legal requirements prior to purchasing, otherwise you may be required to purchase a different policy to properly comply. Furthermore, be sure you meet all eligibility criteria prior to enrolling, for instance visa type, program objectives, dependent's etc. set by the insurance company,  so you will not be denied service should you need to use your insurance.

 While we understand that travel policies are an attractive option for those coming for a short-term visit, Rice does not recommend their use. These policies are typically not ACA compliant which will impact visitors who are considered residents for tax purposes and those who suffer from chronic conditions (ex: high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol) or those who have pre-existing conditions (ex: cancer, pregnancy). Since travel policies typically have limited medical coverage and will not cover those medical needs or medications one should proceed with caution.

Minimum requirements for alternate insurance plan under J-1 regulations:

  • Medical benefits of at least $100,000 for each accident or illness (a higher benefit is better)
  • Medical evacuation in the amount of $50,000, should you need to be sent home on the advice of a doctor
  • Repatriation of remains in the amount of $25,000, should you die while in the U.S.
  • Coverage must include the semester for which you are at Rice University
  • Minimum 75% coverage for each accident or illness
  • Maximum deductible of $500 per condition per plan year
  • A pre-existing “wait period” limitation of no more than six months
  • The policy must be backed by the full faith and credit of home country government (for those covered by their home country's national insurance plan), or the company providing the insurance must meet minimum rating requirements established by the U.S. government (an A.M. Best rating of "A-" or above, an Insurance Solvency International, Ltd. (ISI) rating of "A-1" or above, a Standard & Pool's Claims-paying Ability rating of "A-" or above, or a Research, Inc. rating of B+ or above). Policy must be in English
  • All exchange visitors and any accompanying dependents may also be subject to the requirements of the Affordable Care Act (22 CFR 62.14(a))

Estimated Insurance Charges as of June 2017 (all fees subject to change) 

Rice Plan (Benefits-Eligible Employees)   
Scholar only $82-$169/month
With spouse or children $312-$599/month
With family (spouse and children) $532-$1016/month


SAS (Alternate plan available to meet J-1 scholar health insurance requirements)  (requires 3 month minimum)

Scholar $1560/year or $130/month
For spouse $1560/year or $130/month  
Each child $1560/year or $130/month 


As with any insurance plan, please be sure to not only meet the minimums required by the J-1 Exchange Visitor visa, but only purchase insurance from a reputable company that will be there to assist you should you need to use your insurance.  

 Dental and eye examinations

The health insurance fees listed above generally do not include routine dental and eye examinations or charges for dental work and eyeglasses. The normal charge for a full dental exam is about $100. Eye examinations cost about $100. Glasses can cost $125 or more.

Additional Resources:

 Helpful Tips for Using Health Insurance

 Understanding the J-1 Health Insurance Requirement PowerPoint  

Understanding Health Insurance in the US (video)

Chinese Medical Terminology Dictionary - This medical terminology handbook has been created to assist you when you go to the doctor in the U.S. This terminology handbook was designed to translate the most common symptoms and complaints in both Chinese and English, to assist the patient - doctor communication. Please feel free to print out a copy to take with you to the doctor.

Spanish Medical terminology dictionary