Student Health

International Students & Scholars

Health Care is very expensive in the USA and quite different from other countries. In many countries the government pays for health care for its citizens while in the United States individuals are responsible for these costs themselves. The USA has a pay-for-services system. Without insurance, an office visit to see a doctor for a minor illness costs between $200 - $400; a "normal" pregnancy and delivery care will cost at least $12,000; an appendectomy with two nights in the hospital could easily be $20,000.

These potential fees are the reason why you must purchase health insurance!

Health Information for International Students & Scholars

What rules apply to international students holding a J-1 or F-1 visa?

Health Insurance for Dependents

Spouses and children of students can sign up for the family health insurance plan of Blue Cross & Blue Shield of NC (the Duke Student Health Insurance).  Go to this link and look for the dependent enrollment form.  However student spouses and children cannot go to the Student Health Center for their primary care.  Fortunately there are a number of Duke-affiliated health clinics in the Durham and Chapel Hill areas. We recommend that your family members go to one of these clinics, perhaps the one closest to your home. Both spouses and children can go to the Duke Family Medicine Center located on Erwin Road.

For more information, please refer to our handout, Finding a doctor for Family Members - Spouses and Children.

How Health Insurance Works

When you purchase a medical insurance plan, the money you pay (the monthly premium) is combined with the premiums of other subscribers to form a pool of money. This money is then used to pay the medical bills of subscribers who need medical insurance. Your medical coverage remains valid only as long as you pay your medical insurance premiums.

Once you purchase medical insurance, your insurance company will provide you with an identification card.  Show this card when you have to go to the hospital or clinic. The insurance company will evaluate any doctor's bill (also called a claim) that you file and make the appropriate payment either your doctor's office or to you, based on your particular medical policy. In some cases the insurance company pays the hospital or doctor directly. In other cases the company reimburses you directly.

Major Medical

All International Students with either an F-1 or a J-1 visas are required to carry medical insurance coverage, through the University-approved Plan offered by BCBS of NC. Failure to maintain adequate, annually verifiable insurance is a violation of the conditions by which Duke University admitted the student and also violates the federal insurance requirements for J-1 exchange visitors in Title 22 of the Code of Federal Regulations, section 62.14. 

For more information about the Duke University Student Medical Insurance Plan, click here.

Unfortunately the Blue Cross & Blue Shield student health insurance plan, along with most health insurance plans, DOES NOT cover dental work or routine eye exams. For more information, go to the International House Health Care & Medical Insurance section.

Primary Care

Student Health Fee. All currently enrolled full-time students and part-time degree candidates are assessed a mandatory Student Health Fee each semester. This covers most services delivered within the Student Health Center and Counseling and Psychological Services. The Health Fee will appear on your tuition bill each semester.

Remember, if you have an issue that is NOT CRITICAL when the Duke Student Health Center is closed, call 919-681-9355 first for a recorded message that will tell you what to do for medical assistance.