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Health Insurance: 8 Steps for Exchange Advisors to Take

A woman in a red suitcoat listens intently to another woman talking
A woman in a red suitcoat listens intently to another woman talking

By removing insurance barriers, you can support diverse participants to safely participate in your programs.

Most people with disabilities are not unhealthy or sick. By U.S. law, people with disabilities are eligible for coverage under traditional group insurance policies. Though traditional medical insurance coverage will be sufficient for many people with disabilities, some may request or need alternative options due to limitations on coverage if traveling abroad and the need for medications or treatments to maintain their health while abroad.

With the following steps and options in place, it shouldn’t prevent qualified individuals from participating in exchanges and should alleviate some of the difficult health cost issues that exchange staff and participants may need to deal with during the program.

  1. Offer group health insurance options and negotiate a plan that eliminates pre-existing condition and mental health exclusions. In some cases, additional insurance riders can be purchased for a minimal increase in cost to cover services that are excluded in a basic plan.
  2. Ensure that the maximum coverage amount of the plan will cover those who are first diagnosed or become disabled overseas, extends coverage on return home, and considers case-by-case those who exceed maximum amounts.
  3. Confirm with your insurance agent that they provide 24-hour assistance service worldwide and that services including TTY or text messaging are available at all hours if you have Deaf participants.
  4. Assist individuals with or direct them to insurance companies to find out about medications that can and cannot be imported or purchased in countries abroad, and how to arrange for needed medications.
  5. Check if students are adequately insured and educate them on plans that will cover pre-existing conditions if your program does not offer these options.
  6. Budget separately as an organization/department for assistance with upfront counseling costs, durable medical equipment replacement rentals or repair emergencies abroad (e.g. wheelchairs, hearing aids, crutches, etc.), and personal assistant services.
  7. Have participants sign HIPAA privacy and confidentiality waivers in advance to help insurance companies to work with exchange participants when timing is critical and services need to expedited.
  8. Know how to access an individual’s confidential medical records and personal physician in an emergency, especially for participants with health-related concerns, such as epilepsy, diabetes and others.


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