Handling dependents on your insurance plan

We are often asked about the best way to handle dependents on your group insurance plan, and this is not always an easy answer. The short answer is to not include them on your plan - we will explain further the main reasons for this. But there can be many reasons why you will need to, or have to include them and so if you do, how do you manage this?

Dependents are not that common in the cultural exchange world because most of the participants on these programs are typically younger and do not have families. However, there are some visa categories such as intern and trainees, scholars and teacher training where there may be family members that are traveling with them. As the sponsor for these participants, you are responsible for making sure that both the J1 and J2 visa holders are adhering to the J visa insurance requirements, so adding dependents to your insurance plan may often be the easiest option to maintain this.

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Good for your plan?

There are a number of reasons why simply adding dependents to your insurance plan is not a good idea, as you will most likely see that it will drive up your claims costs. Here are a few reasons why you will not want to include them in your plan, if possible:

  • Young children — if your dependents are younger children, they are more susceptible to illness, as their immune system is less well developed. They will also require more wellness coverage for annual checkups and immunizations, which is generally not included in coverage and will drive up the cost of the plan if added to the plan.
  • Maternity — many cultural exchange plans do not include maternity, however if your plan does include it and you include dependents, you run the risk of driving up your maternity claims.
  • Appropriate benefits — many cultural exchange plans are not developed or suited for young children or partners. Benefits like wellness or maternity are common exclusions, and these are key benefits for the dependent demographic.

Dependent Options

As a program provider or sponsor, you want to make sure that you are firstly compliant with all the regulations and that you are providing the best coverage for your participants. This can be complicated when it comes to dependents, and while we recommend you do not include them into your main participant plan, there are still options available to you:

Individual Purchase

The easiest solution for dependents is to let them purchase their own insurance coverage. This allows them to find and purchase the right plan for their needs, so if they need child wellness or maternity benefits, they can source a plan that includes this and it will offer the best coverage for their specific needs.

The downside of this option is that there could be administration work for your team to manage and track the policies your dependents are purchasing to make sure they are still meeting the J visa requirements. One solution to solve this is to pre-source a number of plans that offer a variety of different benefits and options. If you are working with a broker, they can do this for you and then you can require dependents to purchase one of the pre-approved plans.

Include in your Existing Plan

If you do not have the bandwidth to manage and approve individual dependent insurance policies, or do not want the risk of them purchasing a plan that might not meet the J visa requirements, then you can still include them into your existing plan.

What you DO NOT want to do is include them with all your other participants, but you should segment them and work with your insurance company to create an individual policy just for dependents. By doing this, you have the ability to alter the benefits of the plan to suit your dependents, while still having control over the plan they are insured with. The main drawbacks of doing this is the cost of dependent insurance plans like this are normally very high, upwards of $5 to $10 per day.

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Participant Student Zone

For future or current participants who are insured on our plans, you can view all the details about your plan through your Student Zone. You can find this information in your welcome email and insurance ID card. If you cannot find this, please contact us.