Read this section to learn more about U.S. health care, health insurance and related resources. For students, medical history and immunization requirements are covered below. For visitors and employees, information about WashU benefits and requirements is also outlined.

Health care in the U.S.

Health care in the U.S. is provided by many different organizations. It can be very confusing to understand how the system works and where to go for health care. Health care is provided at doctor’s offices, hospitals, walk-in urgent care centers and clinics. In addition, there are free-standing surgery and rehabilitation centers that provide care on an outpatient basis. There are also radiology imaging centers, pharmacies, skilled nursing facilities and many more. It is a complex system to understand. The guide below is intended to help you understand the basics about health care in the U.S., how health insurance works, and the best way for WashU students, scholars and employees to access care.

Types of health care providers

  • For basic and routine care, call a doctor’s office to schedule an appointment. There may be a wait for new patients. You should bring your translated medical records with you.
  • Urgent care is a category of walk-in clinic focused on the delivery of care in a medical facility outside of a traditional hospital emergency room (ER). Urgent care facilities primarily treat injuries or illnesses requiring immediate care, but not serious enough to require an ER visit. They may also be utilized when you require care that cannot wait for an appointment at the doctor’s office.
  • For emergencies, call 911 or go to a hospital’s emergency room.

Habif Health and Wellness Center is WashU’s on-campus student health care clinic that provides evaluation and treatment of illness or injury, preventive health care, counseling and psychological services and health education. Some Habif Center services have additional costs, such as laboratory tests, X-rays, procedures, etc. For students, the Habif Center should be your first stop for health care while at the university.

Medical facilities at the Washington University School of Medicine affiliated with the BJC HealthCare system as well as the Washington University Physicians group are two convenient health care resources for employees, visitors and students. Please be sure to read the information about health insurance below before scheduling appointments with any provider. Not all health insurance plans cover every health care provider service.

Health insurance

Student insurance

The cost of medical treatment and hospitalization in the U.S. is extremely high. Thus, WashU has a mandatory health insurance program for all students. Students are automatically billed for the fee of this insurance. Your enrollment into the insurance is also automatic upon completing your registration for the first semester of each academic year. Coverage runs from August 1 to July 31 of the following calendar year. Spouses and dependents are strongly urged to purchase major medical insurance due to the high cost of medical treatment.

The health insurance policy at WashU does not cover the cost of eye examinations, eyeglasses or dental work. These services are expensive in the U.S. Therefore, you are advised to have this work completed prior to leaving your country. Alternatively, you can choose to purchase dental or vision insurance at an additional cost. Visit the Dental/Vision Insurance Benefits page for more details.

The American College Health Association recommends that all universities require students to have adequate health insurance and what the benefit plan should include. Accordingly, WashU offers a robust student health insurance policy for your convenience. We feel confident that our plan is one of the best student plans available. You should review and understand the health insurance plan. You are responsible for following the regulations of the plan in order to have the best coverage and least amount of out of pocket expenses.

Read the full guide to health insurance for international students (PDF)

Scholar and employee insurance

WashU employees and scholars who are eligible for employee benefits can find information on the university health insurance plans on the Human Resources website. If eligible, you should enroll in a WashU insurance plan within 30 days of starting employment.

Employees that are not benefits eligible should obtain insurance before coming to the U.S. Before arriving in the U.S., contact your sponsoring department for a list of insurance providers that specialize in coverage for international students and scholars.

After obtaining health insurance, be sure to review the provider network for your plan. Certain insurance plans cover certain providers (i.e., doctors, physician groups, clinics) and certain services. Depending on your plan, specific procedures or providers may not be covered by your plan. Checking your provider network via the online portal for your insurance plan or asking the doctor or clinic if they accept your particular insurance before or while scheduling any appointments is the best way to ensure that your insurance covers the services you are seeking.

J-1 Exchange Visitor health insurance requirement

Department of State (DOS) J-1 Exchange Visitor (EV) Program regulations require that J-1 EVs and their J-2 dependents carry health insurance meeting specific minimum standards (Code of Federal Regulations – 22 CFR 62.14) during the entire length of their J program. Failure to maintain required insurance coverage can result in termination of J status. EVs who are not eligible for WashU benefits must obtain minimum insurance coverage before coming to the U.S. Health care expenses in the U.S. can be costly. Therefore, coverage in the amounts listed below may not be considered sufficient to cover all expenses for medical care.

For students in J-1 immigration status, more information is available on the J-1 Student Status page.

For scholars in J-1 immigration status, more information is available on the J-1 Exchange Visitor page.

Student health history form and immunizations

Habif Health and Wellness Center requires new students to complete online forms, including:

All health history, immunization and meningitis information must be submitted via the Student Portal using your WUSTL Key login information. This information does not need to be completed by a doctor.

Required vaccinations include measles, mumps and rubella (MMR). First-year students also require a meningitis vaccine. In addition, you may need a tuberculosis test before coming to the U.S., depending on your county of origin. Information about your immunizations as well as your medical history form can be submitted to Habif through the Student Portal.

If you have any questions about health history or immunization requirements as well as any health insurance questions that are not related to immigration requirements, please contact Habif Health and Wellness Center.