Waiver Process

Visiting scholars who wish to utilize health insurance other than that afforded by the University may request to waive enrollment in the Visiting Scholar Health Insurance Plan. To qualify for a waiver, outside insurance must meet or exceed the level of coverage required by Northwestern University.

As many policies do not meet University standards, scholars should be advised to carefully review the terms and conditions of potential coverage prior to purchase. Doing so may help the scholar avoid the purchase of coverage that does not satisfy the required criteria and which involves a non-refundable premium.

A Waiver Request Form is required. See more detailed instructions below.

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Northwestern University insurance requirements

To qualify for a waiver, supplied health insurance must, at a minimum, meet the following requirements:

  • Medical benefits of at least $100,000 per accident or illness
  • Coverage for repatriation of remains in the amount of $7,500 (does not apply to B1 visa holders)
  • $10,000 for expenses associated with medical evacuation
  • Deductible not to exceed $250 per accident or illness
  • Co-insurance provision can be no greater than 25%
  • Out-of-pocket expenses not to exceed $2,000 per year
  • Pre-existing conditions must be covered (no exclusions, no waiting period)

In addition, the insurance plan:

  • Shall not unreasonably exclude coverage for perils inherent to the activities of the program in which the exchange visitor participates
  • Must include inpatient and outpatient coverage for both sickness and accident
  • Will cover at least 80% of usual and customary charges in the Chicago area
  • Shall provide benefits for prescription drugs, pregnancy, and mental illness

The following kinds of insurance plans are NOT acceptable:

  • Travel Insurance: Travel insurance is designed for short trips and does not usually provide comprehensive benefits, such as coverage for pre-existing conditions and non-emergency care. However, travel insurance that is designed to supplement an existing health insurance plan may be acceptable if all of the above criteria are met.
  • US Government Programs: Non-immigrant J-1 Exchange Visitors and J-2 dependents may not use government sponsored healthcare programs to waive enrollment in the Visiting Scholar Health Insurance Plan. State or federally funded insurance programs, such as Family Care and Moms and Babies, do not satisfy the insurance requirements of the J visa. Further, accepting such benefits may be considered a violation of legal status and could jeopardize the visitor's ability to re-enter the US at a later date or apply for Permanent Resident status.
  • Individual Health Plans: In the United States, individual health insurance refers to coverage that is purchased on the private market. Unlike employer or group insurance, individual health plans do not fall under the protection of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). As a result, individual health plans can restrict or deny coverage for certain medical conditions, such as pre-existing conditions or pregnancy. While the prices for these plans are attractive, benefits are limited and protection is minimal.

Below is a list of individual health plans that have been reviewed and do not meet University standards:

  • Gateway - USA, Premier
  • HCCMIS - Atlas, Student Secure
  • HTH Worldwide - Global Student USA /Preferred
  • IMG - Patriot International/Patriot America, Visitors Care
  • ISO - Compass, Voyager, NetCare
  • Seven Corners - Inbound USA
  • United Health - United Chinese Plan
  • USI Travel Insurance Services - Study USA-HealthCare, WorldMed

Applying for an insurance waiver

A waiver will be granted only if the visitor is able to demonstrate that outside coverage meets all of the stated criteria. To request a waiver, the following documentation is required:

  • Waiver Request Form, completed by the host department
  • Verification of benefits in English, such as a copy of the insurance policy, a plan brochure or a detailed summary of benefits. Documentation must clearly show that coverage meets all of the University's insurance requirements.
  • A certificate of coverage including the policy number, the names of the individuals covered by the policy, and the effective dates of coverage. Coverage must be in place for the entire appointment term or until employee benefits go into effect.

Please note that a copy of the scholar's insurance card will not be accepted as proof of coverage unless the scholar is enrolled in a Northwestern University-sponsored health plan.

Visa extensions for benefits-eligible scholars

The International Office requires verification of health insurance coverage for all visa extension requests. If the visitor is enrolled in an NU health plan and will remain eligible for employee benefits during the extension, please submit the following:

  • Waiver Request Form
  • Copy of the visitor's insurance card, plus cards for any covered dependents