Health Care for Scholars

Due to the high cost of health care in the United States, international scholars are strongly urged to have adequate medical insurance for themselves and for any accompanying family members.  Please remember that insurance coverage is not just required for doctor’s visits; it is also necessary to ensure that the emergency room visits, medical lab tests or prescription medications are covered.  Massachusetts law requires all Massachusetts residents to have health insurance. In addition, scholars and their dependents on J Exchange Visitor visas are required by the U.S. Department of State to have health insurance according to the J Scholar Visa regulations.

Health Insurance Eligibility at Harvard

Harvard University faculty and staff, including postdoctoral fellows, are eligible for a wide range of benefits programs. In most cases, they are eligible for University benefits if employed on a regular University payroll and working at least 17.5 hours per week or are paid at a base annual rate of at least $15,000.

Most of Harvard's benefits require you to take some action in order to participate, and some cover you automatically once you become eligible. Harvard's medical and dental insurance plans offer individual coverage and/or family coverage, which include eligible dependents (spouses and children under the age of 26).  Please note that the “high deductible plan option” offered by Harvard does NOT meet the J-1 health insurance requirements and you should not select this plan if you are a benefits-eligible J-1 visa holder. All questions about these medical insurance plan options are handled by Benefits Consultants in the Office of Human Resources (114 Mt. Auburn Street, 4th floor). To find out the name of the Benefits Consultant for your area or department, please call 617-496-4001.

Health Insurance Information for Scholars Who Are Not Eligible for Benefits

Scholars who are not eligible for the benefits program offered by Harvard must find an appropriate health insurance plan; you will be responsible for selecting and obtaining health insurance coverage for the duration of your time as a J-1 scholar at Harvard.  You should familiarize yourself with certain common health insurance coverage issues and terminology so that you can select a plan that best meets your coverage needs.  Before you decide on a health insurance plan, be sure that you read through all of the plan materials and that you fully understand what types of care will be covered by the plan.

The insurance plan you select could be based in your home country, or based in the United States. If your health insurance plan in your home country provides coverage to you and your dependents while you are in the United States, and that coverage meets the J health insurance requirements, you may not need any additional insurance.

If you do not have health insurance that covers you and your J-2 dependents while you are in the United States, you will have to make arrangements for health insurance soon after your arrival in the United States. Some non-employee post-doctoral affiliates may qualify for the Harvard University Student Health Plan. Scholars may also choose to purchase an insurance plan outside Harvard if they do not have health insurance coverage from their home countries.

Insurance Plans Outside Harvard

The following information refers to alternative health insurance plans for those who are not eligible for Harvard employee benefits. These plans satisfy the U.S. Department of State health insurance requirements for J visa holders.

Long-term Coverage (all plans listed below include coverage for J-1 scholars as well)

Coverage for J-1 Scholars ages 65-79

Short-term Coverage

Medical Evacuation and Repatriation Coverage

Dependent-Only Coverage Available

Massachusetts Health Reform

All residents of Massachusetts are required to have health insurance. In an attempt to make health insurance more affordable to residents, an independent state agency called the Health Connector was created to help Massachusetts residents find health care coverage. You may be eligible for some of the plans offered by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

For Dependents of Benefits-Eligible Scholars

Scholars who are eligible for Harvard employee benefits may enroll themselves and their dependents in one of the health insurance plans offered by the University. For details about how and when to enroll J-2 dependents, please contact the Harvard Benefits Department.  Please note that if dependents do not choose the Harvard plan, they may not use the HUHS on a "fee-for service" basis.

For Dependents of Non-Benefits-Eligible Scholars

Scholars wishing to enroll their dependents for health insurance plans should do so when they themselves enroll or when their dependents arrive, if they arrive at a later date. Scholars should address dependent coverage options and when such coverage can be purchased with representatives from the health insurance providers named above prior to enrolling in the plan.  Plans may have different policies regarding when dependents can be added to a scholar’s coverage.

Dependents of affiliates may enroll in the Harvard University Student Health Plan only if the affiliate is also enrolled.

Dental Insurance

Because dental care in the U.S. can be extremely expensive, we encourage scholars to conduct any preventative care or necessary dental work prior to their arrival in the U.S.

There are some dental insurance options for scholars who are not eligible for employee benefits. These plans are offered through the Massachusetts Health Connector.  Dental insurance may help you save money on any unexpected dental care needs, most of which will not be covered by standard health insurance.

Fee-for-service dental care is available on the Harvard Square and Longwood Medical Area campuses. The Dental Center in the Longwood Medical Area houses the Teaching Practices, where treatment is delivered by pre-doctoral dental students and advanced graduate dental students. The use of dental clinics associated with dental schools is a money-saving way to receive good dental care. Depending on the level of education of the practitioner, the costs at these clinics are usually less expensive than private dentists. Private dentists can be found via general internet searches.