• Healthcare & Medical Insurance
    • Healthcare & Medical Insurance

Health care and health insurance are important aspects of your life here and require careful thought and planning.

US government regulations require you to maintain adequate health insurance for yourself and your dependents. In the case of F-1 students, this is part of your general obligation to demonstrate financial ability to meet all of the costs of your stay at Penn.

In the case of J-1 students and scholars, this obligation is contained in a specific rule that requires termination of your J status for willful failure to maintain adequate insurance for yourself and your dependents. For insurance requirements, visit the US Department of State website.

The cost of health care in the United States is extremely high, often over $2,500 per day in some hospitals (covering room and board only). International students and scholars are not eligible for financial assistance from the US government or from the University to pay medical bills.

In Philadelphia, you can feel confident about the quality of care you will receive, as it is one of the top cities in the United States for medical care. There are many excellent hospitals and teaching institutions here, among them the hospitals of the University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS).


  • Things You Should Know about the US Health Care System
    • The system is privately funded, not government sponsored.
    • Payment is the responsibility of the individual, with or without health insurance.
    • Some doctors providing services at a hospital may bill the patient separately.
    • Payment is usually expected at the time the care is given, therefore you should always check that your insurance will cover the treatment before it is given.
    • You are responsible for seeing that bills are submitted and that claims forms (used to request payment from the insurance company) are properly completed.
    • The reimbursement process takes time and incomplete forms can cause further delays.
    • Copies of all bills and papers should be kept for at least one year.
    • It is appropriate to seek an opinion about your case from a second doctor before deciding on a course of treatment.
    • Be aware of your own health needs and background. Keep copies of your past medical records with you. It is very helpful, for example, to tell the doctor which medications you have taken in the past.
    • It is appropriate to ask questions about your condition and your treatment. Take a friend to the doctor's office with you to translate or help with forms if you feel that will help.
  • Insurance for Students, Scholars and Family
  • For health care and insurance information, please click here, link

    Couples with or without children should consider carefully the different plans for medical insurance. Each insurance plan must be reviewed with particular attention to the specific medical needs of your family members. Be certain that your insurance policy provides enough coverage for you and your family, and that coverage includes, if appropriate, maternity benefits to cover the costs of pregnancy and childbirth.

  • Where to Go for Medical Care
  • If you are feeling sick, do not hesitate to get help--even if you are nervous and have never seen a doctor outside your own country. The longer you wait, the greater risk you run for developing a serious problem from what may have been minor and easy to treat. Unless you have a real emergency, such as uncontrolled bleeding or a broken bone, do not go to a hospital emergency room for treatment. Emergency rooms are very expensive and, if your condition is not life threatening, you may have to wait a long time for care.

    All full-time students at Penn may use the Student Health Services (SHS) for minor medical problems or for minor emergencies and at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) for other emergencies. If you are taking a minimum of three courses per semester (or are on dissertation status), the services provided at SHS are covered by the mandatory Clinical Fee of approximately $75 per semester. Only part-time students, students abroad, and students on a leave of absence are exempt from the Clinical Fee. Spouses of students can use the service on a fee-per-visit basis with guest ID. Children, however, cannot use SHS but care is available at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia located beside the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

    For emergencies call 911 for assistance. For minor emergencies outside regular office hours, go to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania Emergency Room.

    Scholars and families of scholars are not eligible to use SHS. You can call the University of Pennsylvania Health System at 1-800-789-PENN to obtain a directory of Penn primary care physicians or you may want to get references from friends and colleagues.
    University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS)
    1-800-789-PENN

    When choosing a doctor, consider whether you would prefer to see a man or a woman, an older practitioner or a younger one, etc. Even if you are not asked, you should make your preferences known. For the best medical care, it is valuable to choose one clinic and use it throughout your stay. In this way, all those who see you will know you and your medical history and will be better able to treat you.

  • What to Expect When Seeing a Doctor
  • Most clinics in the United States are staffed by physicians, nurse practitioners (registered nurses qualified to evaluate, diagnose, and treat many common conditions), midwives (registered nurses specializing in prenatal and childbirth practice), registered nurses, and a variety of health care workers. You may not see a physician when you first seek medical care. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you may receive care immediately, later the same day, or the next day. You may be offered a choice of doctors or health-care providers.

    The time you spend with health care providers may seem very brief, with little opportunity for conversation. The doctor or nurse will ask you many questions; some may appear unnecessary or intrusive, but you should try to answer them as completely as possible. You may think the approach abrupt and impersonal; however, the workers are only trying to be efficient and thorough. It is expected that patients will ask questions about their health, diagnosis, treatment, and costs.

    American-trained physicians generally expect their patients to participate actively in making decisions about medications and treatment choices. If you ever have difficulty understanding anything about your medical status or treatment, ask for clarification. You can ask workers to talk more slowly, to repeat, or to write something down. If you think you will need a translator, ask when you make your appointment if someone can assist you, or ask a friend to accompany you.

  • Mental Health
  • International students and scholars often hesitate to consult a professional about mental health problems. You may never have had the need to talk to a psychologist, psychiatric social worker, or psychiatrist at home, and you may think only "crazy" people with severe mental problems are treated by such professionals.

    It is not uncommon in the United States, however, for people with emotional problems to seek professional help. As you are far from home and lacking the usual support system of family and friends, you may find it helpful to consult a mental health professional when dealing with issues of adjustment, depression, strain or stress. The process will be completely confidential.

    As a student, you may wish to contact the Reach-A Peer HelpLine. It is a peer support telephone service established by and for Penn students to provide information, peer support and referrals. The Line is open to all students who wish to share a problem, need information or just want someone to talk to. It is a confidential, anonymous, and free phone service. Student active listeners can provide callers with their objective, undivided attention. However, RAP-Line is not a professional crisis hotline.

    Reach-a-Peer Helpline
    215-573-2RAP M-F 9pm-1am during the academic year. One can also use their website to write an anonymous and confidential letter. http:// www.upenn.edu/rap-online/

    Students may also consult a professional at the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).

    Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS)
    133 S. 36th St. 2nd Floor
    Tel: 215-898-7021
    Email: caps@pobox.upenn.edu 

    Visiting scholars and their families can contact the Employee Assistance Program for short-term professional assistance.

    Employee Assistance Program
    888-321-4433

  • Dental Care
  • You can obtain quality dental care at a reasonable price from Penn's Dental School. You will be treated by advanced dental students working under the supervision of professors. You can also visit the Dental Care Center, which is the practice of Penn faculty members.

    Dental Care Center

    Quality dental care at a reasonable price is available from Penn's Dental School. You will be treated by advanced dental students working under the supervision of professors. You can also visit the Dental Care Center, which is the practice of Penn faculty members.

    Dental Care Center
    215-898-8965