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Hard Waiver Program for International Students

What is new about the hard waiver program for Spring 2014?

  1. The on-line enrollment/waiver site will open on December 2, 2013.
  2. The deadlines for filing a waiver application and submitting an appeal will be strictly enforced. No waiver applications will be accepted after February 3, 2014. Any appeals must be submitted by February 10, 2014. Any appeals submitted after February 10, 2014 will be denied.
  3. International students who hold or are pursuing permanent resident, refugee, asylee or temporary protective status must submit appropriate documentation to the International Studies Office by February 3, 2014 to be exempt from the University’s hard waiver program. This is a firm deadline. Students who fail to submit appropriate documentation by February 3, 2014 will be subject to the hard waiver program.
  4. The University will post the premium of $1,718.00 to the accounts of all international students subject to the  Spring 2014 hard waiver program by December 2, 2013.  This charge will not become due unless you fail to demonstrate comparable coverage in the online waiver site by February 3, 2014.
  5. International students who fail to waive coverage by February 3, 2014 will be required to pay the premium of $1,718 by March 31, 2014.

What is a hard waiver program?
Under a hard waiver program, a university requires students to carry health insurance which meets specific coverage requirements.  A student is billed the full cost for single coverage under the University's endorsed student health insurance plan.  The student may avoid this cost if he/she provides proof that he/she has other health insurance coverage which meets the University's specific coverage requirements.

Have other institutions adopted hard waiver programs?
Yes, a growing number of institutions have adopted hard waiver programs.  Our health insurance administrator, Aetna Student Health, has implemented hard waiver programs at approximately 80 other institutions.  Some institutions, including Boston College, Clemson University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Duke University, Harvard University, Northwestern University, Miami University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the College of William and Mary have implemented hard waiver programs for all students.  Several of these institutions require international students to buy the institution's health plan even if they have comparable health coverage.  There are a number of other institutions who have adopted hard waiver programs for international students.  These include the University of Maryland, the University of Michigan, the University of North Carolina, and Virginia Tech.  Like U.Va., these institutions permit international students to “waive off” the institution's plan if they can prove that they have comparable health coverage.

Why did U.Va. implement a hard waiver program for international students?
The University implemented the hard waiver program to ensure compliance with University policy and federal law, to reduce the health risk of its international student population by ensuring reliable access to health care services, and to insulate international students from devastating medical charges.  While all U.Va. students must have health insurance to remain enrolled at the University, international students are subject to additional requirements set by the federal government.  In particular, international students with the J-1 visa status are required by law to maintain health insurance at proscribed minimum levels throughout their studies or face the loss of legal status.  The American health care system has grown increasingly complex and costly.  Unlike domestic students, many of whom benefit from being dependents of their parents' insurance plans, international students typically purchase insurance as the principals.  Since many of the plans marketed abroad do not provide adequate coverage, the University has found that many international students are either uninsured or underinsured.  This is especially perilous since international students cannot avail themselves of any public subsidies for health care, such as Medicaid or similar relief programs.  This has tragically led to international students being forced to leave the University in recent years.

Which international students are subject to the hard waiver program?
The hard waiver program applies to all non-immigrant students enrolled in a degree-seeking program in residence in Charlottesville.  “Non-immigrant” means all students enrolled at the University pursuant to a visa.  Permanent residents, refugees, asylees, and students with temporary protective status are considered immigrants or intending immigrants and are not subject to the program.  Exchange students are not degree-seeking students and, therefore, they are not subject to the hard-waiver program.  Any degree-seeking students who are not in residence are exempt from the hard-waiver program during their absence from Charlottesville.

Are the dependents of international students subject to the program?
No, dependents are not subject to the hard waiver program; however, the University expects that dependents will maintain adequate health coverage throughout their stay in the United States.  As a reminder, dependents with the J-2 visa status are required by law to maintain health insurance at proscribed minimum levels throughout their stay or risk the loss of legal status.

When will international students be billed for the cost of single student coverage under the University's endorsed student health plan?
The University will post the Spring premium of $1,718.00 to the accounts of all international students subject to the  Spring 2014 hard waiver program in SIS by December 2, 2013.  This charge will be viewable to students in the SIS Student Center; it will not become due unless a student fails to waive coverage by February 3, 2014.  International students who fail to waive coverage by February 3, 2014 will be required to pay the Spring premium of $1,718.00 by March 31, 2014.

How much will be billed?
All international students who have failed to waive by February 3, 2014 will be billed $1,718.00.  

What will happen if the full cost is not paid when it is due?
Failure to pay the full cost will result in a registration block which will prevent registration for fall classes.

Is it possible for an international student to avoid this charge?
Yes, an international student can avoid this charge if he/she can demonstrate to Student Health by February 3, 2014 that he/she has comparable coverage under another health plan.  The "comparable coverage" must meet these ten specific requirements:

  1. The plan must be provided by a company licensed to do business in the United States with (a) a U.S. claim payment office, (b) a U.S. telephone number, and (c) plan literature available in English. Travel insurance plans and reimbursement programs of any kind do not qualify, including reimbursement arrangements or vouchers from home governments or their U.S. based consulates. Cost sharing schemes, e.g. Medishare, do not qualify.
  2. The plan must provide in-patient care (including behavioral health care) within a 50-mile radius of the Charlottesville area.
  3. The plan must provide out-patient care (including office visits and outpatient behavioral health care) within a 50-mile radius of the Charlottesville area. Coverage for emergency only care does not satisfy this requirement.
  4. The plan must provide major medical benefits of at least $250,000 (U.S.) in coverage per sickness or injury.
  5. The plan’s total out-of-pocket costs (the total sum of any deductible or coinsurance) may not exceed $4,000 (U.S.) per policy year.
  6. The plan must provide a minimum of $1,000 (U.S.) in coverage per year for prescription drugs.
  7. The plan must provide a minimum of $10,000 (U.S.) in coverage for repatriation/medical evacuation to your home country or return of mortal remains. If you have a parent or spouse who lives in the United States and will assume financial responsibility for any such costs, you may waive out of this requirement provided you are not a J-1/J-2 visa holder. Please contact hardwaiver@virginia.edu for the appropriate waiver form.
  8. The plan must provide coverage for maternity benefits (females only).
  9. The coverage must remain in effect for all semesters in which you are enrolled for the 2013-2014 academic year.
  10. The student must agree to be held financially responsible for payment of all charges not covered by his/her health insurance plan.

How does an international student determine whether he/she has “comparable coverage” under another health plan?
To determine “comparable coverage,” an international student must complete a waiver application by accessing the online waiver site administered by Aetna Student Health at http://www.uvastudentinsurance.com and following the instructions under the tab labeled “International Students.” 

Who determines if an international student has met the requirements for “comparable coverage” under another health plan?
The University of Virginia solely determines whether an international student has met the requirements for “comparable coverage.”  While the online waiver site is administered by Aetna Student Health, the site has been pre-programmed to evaluate a student’s waiver application pursuant to the specific coverage criteria set by the University of Virginia.  Aetna Student Health has no discretion in approving or denying a waiver application.  Students whose waiver applications are denied in the online system may appeal to Student Health officials at hardwaiver@virginia.edu or at (434) 243-2702.   

When will the on-line waiver site open?
The on-line waiver site will be open and available to all new international students on December 2, 2013.

Is there a deadline for filing the waiver application?
Yes, an international student must file a waiver application in the online site on or before February 3, 2014. This deadline will be strictly enforced. No waiver applications will be received after February 3, 2014.

What information should an international student have available before entering the on-line waiver site to file a waiver application?
Before entering the online waiver site, an international student should have (1) his/her current health plan ID card; and (2) his/her health insurance carrier’s brochure or plan description.

What happens if an international student fails to demonstrate “comparable coverage” by the established deadline?
Any international student who fails to demonstrate “comparable coverage” in the online site by February 3, 2014 will be automatically enrolled in the Aetna Student Health plan and billed $1,718.00 U.S.  This includes international students who fail to take any action in the on line system by February 3, 2013 or who have filed a waiver application that has been denied.  Once a student is enrolled in the plan, the coverage cannot be cancelled.

May an international student appeal a waiver decision from the online waiver site?
Yes, an international student may appeal a waiver decision from the on-line waiver site by contacting Student Health at hardwaiver@virginia.edu or at (434) 243-2702 on or before February 10, 2014. This deadline will be strictly enforced. Any appeal filed after February 10, 2014 will be denied. If an international student obtains other health insurance coverage and wishes to submit a new waiver application, he/she must contact Student Health at hardwaiver@virginia.edu or at (434) 243-2702 on or before February 3, 2013. 

What if I am an international student who qualifies for the Graduate Student Subsidy Program?
If you are an international student who qualifies for the health insurance subsidy, you must still comply with the University’s hard waiver program.  To comply with the hard waiver program, you must enroll in the Aetna Student Health plan by accessing the on-line site at http://www.uvastudentinsurance.com between December 2, 2013, and February 3, 2014 and following the instructions under the tab labeled “International Students.”  Upon entering the waiver site, select the option for “Graduate Subsidy Program” at a cost of $0.00.  By enrolling through this site, you will have satisfied the University’s hard waiver program and need not file a separate waiver application.     

Who may I contact if I have additional questions?
For questions regarding “comparable coverage” or the online waiver process, please contact Student Health at hardwaiver@virginia.edu or Meena Sirivastava at 243-2702. For questions regarding your status as an international student, please contact the International Studies Office at issp@virginia.edu or 982-3010.