Health Care and Insurance

Overview of Medical Providers

Many people in the United States, especially those ages 20-40, don't think they they need health insurance. Young, healthy people never consider that they will have a serious injury or illness. It is important to understand that even a small illness or accident can cost thousands of dollars. Health care in the U.S. is very expensive. Medical costs due to an injury or illness could cause you to leave your program which could affect you for the rest of your life. The important thing is that you finish your program in your anticipated time.

Types of Medical Providers
All medical doctors in the U.S. are required to have extensive education and training. A doctor can be a General Practitioner, Family Practitioner or a Specialist. General or Family Practitioners are often referred to as Primary Care Physicians. These provide a wide range of services including treatment for colds and flu, accidents, stomach illnesses and other illnesses and injuries. Working with doctors are physician assistants and nurse practitioners. They have also received specialized education and training but it is not as extensive as a doctor. They are also able to evaluate and diagnose conditions and prescribe medications. These are the best medical providers to see for general problems. If more specialized care, including surgery, your primary care provider will refer you to a specialist. The more highly specialized the provider is, the more money it costs. It is important to go to your primary care physician before you go to a specialist or the hospital emergency room unless it is a life-threatening emergency.

Facilities Where Medical Providers Work

Student Health Center:
The UAF Student Health and Counseling Center is staffed with a physician, nurse practioner, counselors and other health care providers. UAF students, enrolled in at least 6 credits and who have paid the semester health center fee are eligible to be seen. There is no fee for the appointment. However there may be a fee for any medication prescribed and dispensed. The Center is located on Yukon Drive in the same building as the campus police and fire departments, and across the street from the Wood Center.

Private Offices
Many providers work in offices that are referred to as "private practices." There may be one or many providers working in the same office. Private practice offices generally have providers working together in the same medical specialty area such as skin disorders, heart disease and so on. These services may also be provided by providers who work in medical clinics which offer broader ranges of care. There is no difference in the quality of care based on the type of facility the provider works in. In some countries, the best care is received from doctors at hospitals. That is not the case in the U.S.

Groups of doctors may agree to work together and could be associated with a hospital. This arrangement is referred to as a clinic. The cost of care at a clinic may be comparable to the cost at a private practice office but they are much less expensive that being seen in the hospital emergency room. Additionally, some clinics are designated as urgent care clinics and are open every day with extended hours. Fairbanks has three urgent care clinics.

Fairbanks has a hospital for patients to receive care for severe illness and surgery when admitted by a provider. Surgery can be done at the hospital and patients may be required to spend at least one night to recuperate before they are allowed to return home. The daily cost of a hospital stay can be $2,000 or more. Other fees in addition to the hospital may include doctors, nursing services and medical supplies.

For general information on health insurance and understanding it, please see Insurance at a Glance. It will explain the types of coverage available. Definitions (PDF) of common insurance terms is also available. This information is provided by FirstStudent a partner with insurance underwriter, United HealthCare.

UAF has a mandatory health insurance plan through LewerMark Insurance. Your UAF student account will be billed for the health insurance cost each semester. The plan summary (PDF)  and brochure are available for the upcoming academic year in early August.

If you do not wish to have LewerMark Insurance, you will need to request a waiver (PDF) and provide documentation of comparable coverage from a company located outside the U.S. U.S.-based company plans are not eligible for waivers. If you decide to request a waiver, please be sure to forward a copy of your insurance documentation, including name of company, plan summary of benefits, name, coverage dates to ISSS. 

Graduate students receiving health insurance coverage as part of their UAF funding will have this health insurance charge removed from their student accounts when tuition payments are posted. There is no need to submit an insurance waiver request.

For more information, see the Students in F-1 and J-1 status section under Health Insurance Requirements below.

Under UAF policy, you are required to have heath insurance coverage for the time that you are in the U.S. whether you are in F-1 or J-1 status. Your student account will be billed automatically per the information above under Student health insurance plan. You also need to provide insurance documentation for any dependents who are here with you at UAF.

If you are a student in J-1 status, you must have insurance that meets U.S. Department of State Exchange Visitor Program (DOS) as well as UAF institutional requirements. The UAF LewerMark health insurance plan meets or exceeds the DOS requirements. Willful failure to have insurance meeting DOS requirements during the entire duration of your program for yourself, and/or any accompanying dependents in J-2 status, requires termination of your Exchange Visitor program immediately.

If you are a Graduate student receiving a Teaching/Research Assistantship or Fellowship that include health insurance coverage: The above health insurance charge will be removed from your student account by the Graduate School during the fee payment process when your tuition payment is posted to your account. Information about the Graduate Student insurance plan is available on the Grad School website. The information and related links are at the right side of the page.
Note: The Grad School plan does not meet Exchange Visitor Program requirements. If you are coming as a J-1 degree-seeking student sponsored by Fulbright, IIE or another program sponsor and need additional information, you should contact your program sponsor for more information.

All students: If you wish to waive the UAF coverage, you must provide the waiver form (PDF) and documentation of insurance coverage. Please read and complete the waiver form carefully, and make sure to submit it with a full policy and proof of coverage.

Participants in the Exchange Visitor Program (J-1 status), must maintain health insurance for the duration of their program in the U.S. See the special requirements for J-1 Exchange Visitors and their dependents. Willful noncompliance with the insurance regulation requires termination of the Exchange Visitor's program immediately.
Note: If you are working for UAF in a benefit-eligible position, the UA health plans do NOT meet the U.S. Department of State Exchange Visitor requirements. Health insurance documentation must be provided to ISSS before your SEVIS record can be validated. Documentation must be in English, include your name, name of the insurance company, summary of coverage/benefits and validity dates. Under the Exchange Visitor Program regulations, insurance must be valid for the entire duration of your program, as indicated on the DS-2019. It is advisable to have insurance coverage for the entire time you are in the U.S.

If you are employed in benefit-eligible position, you are eligible for UA Benefits. For a description of benefits go to the Statewide website. As part of the available benefits, you may choose to enroll in a Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska health coverage plan for you and any family members.

Please note: Eligible employees have a 30-day election period in which to choose their preferred health plan and dependent coverage options. The health plan requires a waiting period of approximately 30 days from your date of hire into a benefits-eligible position, or attaining extended temporary status, before coverage is effective. To submit your enrollment forms means it has been received by your human resources office.

Eligible employees are not required to enroll their eligible dependents, but may choose to do so at the time of initial eligibility, open enrollment or in the case of a major life event as explained below. Coverage for dependents can only be elected within thirty (30) days of hire, within thirty (30) days after a major life event, or during open enrollment, with the exception of newborn or newly adopted children, in which case you are allowed 60 days.

Under the U.S. Affordable Care Act (ACA) insurance requirement, foreign nationals present in the U.S., who are determined to be U.S. residents for U.S. tax purposes, are required to have health insurance meeting ACA requirements. The ACA requirements do not address the U.S. Department of State Exchange Visitor Program (EVP) requirements, nor do most policies under the ACA meet the EVP requirements. If you are a U.S. tax resident, you may need to meet both the ACA requirements and the EVP requirements. It is important to read insurance policy information carefully to make sure you meet both requirements. Failure to have ACA-compliant insurance may lead to fines on your U.S. tax return.

For more information on determining tax residency status, see Taxes.