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Insurance FAQs

If you are living in the residence halls and/or taking 12 billable credits, and/or International student you will automatically be enrolled in Columbia Student Health Insurance. If neither applies to you, you may enroll via the link found on the myTC Portal. For instructions on how to enroll please refer to our How to Enroll page.

New International Student Insurance

Navigating the US Health Care System can be complex.  To help ensure that our international students have access to the highest quality of care on- and off-campus Teachers College. Columbia University requires all international students to enroll in the Columbia Student Health Insurance Plan.

The Frequently Asked Questions below address the nature of this requirement along with information on how to enroll and access care (on- and off-campus).

Please take time to read this document carefully and, as always, you are encouraged to contact Insurance & Immunization Records with any questions. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is enrollment in the plan mandatory for international students?

Many international students have struggled with inadequate health insurance that resulted in catastrophic health outcomes and extraordinary costs, which can lead to lower levels of academic success, and difficulties with retention.  The lack of adequate coverage has introduced unexpected barriers to achieving academic and scholarly pursuits.

Despite past efforts of Admissions, Insurance & Immunization Records, and Columbia Health to provide clear information to incoming students, we have found that international students are frequently targeted by companies offering lower rates for supposedly equivalent, but actually sub-standard, plans. Many international students are unfamiliar with the US Health Care System and try to access care using these limited non-Columbia Plans.

This requirement reinforces Columbia’s commitment to protecting the health of the student community through on-site access to high-quality health services and provision of insurance coverage to supplement on-campus resources as necessary. 


When does this policy take effect?

This requirement is effective beginning the 2017 - 2018 academic year.  The plan coverage begins August 15 and runs concurrently through August 14 of the following calendar year.


How do I enroll in the required plan?

Upon registering for classes, your myTC e-bill is automatically charged for the Columbia Health Fee and the Insurance Premium. You will receive an email informing you of your enrollment in Plan 90 (formerly known as the "Gold level of coverage) and information on how to upgrade to Plan 100.  Do not ignore this message.  Failure to respond prior to the deadline will result in Columbia defaulting you into the Gold plan and you will not have the option to make changes.


Are there any exceptions?

Exceptions may be granted under rare circumstances to international students who are covered by a U.S.-based, employer-sponsored, group health plan (as a primary, spouse, or dependent), or students that are short term visitors to campus. Please contact Insurance & Immunization Records for more details. These requests are reviewed on a case by case basis.


Why were international students allowed to waive in the past?

Previously, international students who requested waivers with plans that met the waiver criteria were permitted to waive the Columbia Plan.  Audits of these waivers revealed that many of these plans appeared to meet the criteria on the surface, but did not actually fully meet the criteria, thus providing inadequate coverage. 


Can I still go to Medical Services or receive Counseling & Psychological Services on campus?

Yes!  The Columbia Plan works with the on-campus services.  Your care begins on-campus and you will be provided a referral for any off-campus services.


Are there health care providers that speak my language?

Yes!  The Aetna network has providers that speak many languages.  You can search for a provider that speaks your preferred language using the Doc Find feature on the Aetna Student Health website


What if I need health care when I am not in New York or am traveling outside the US?

In addition to comprehensive coverage within the United States, the Columbia Plan provides global coverage, giving you access both locally as well as while traveling.  This benefit is unique to the Columbia Plan and designed specifically to support our students.  We encourage you to learn more about this benefit as well as how the plan will support your health and well-being while studying at Columbia.  Contact Insurance & Immunization Records to discuss the specifics of using your coverage outside of New York.


Why are part-time students being subject to this requirement?

Unlike domestic part-time students, international part-time students are often focused solely on their studies and are not working in positions that provide health insurance.  As a result, part-time international students are not likely to have the level of coverage that truly supports their potential health needs while at Columbia.


I’m graduating in December.  Do I have to pay for the full year?

No.  Premiums are billed by semester, so if you graduate in December you will only be charged for the fall term and your coverage will end on December 31.


Does Teachers College, Columbia University benefit financially from these changes?

No, Teachers College, Columbia University does not benefit at all finanically from this policy. The University collects the premium and then forwards it to Aetna, the insurance provider.  We use this system, as it better allows students to pay for health insurance using available financial aid options.


I have more questions.  With whom can I speak?

Please contact Insurance & Immunization Records via email at


Insurance & Immunization Records

Office of Student Affairs | 159 Thorndike

Teachers College | Columbia University

525 West 120th Street

Box 308

New York, NY 10027
P: 212.678.3006
F: 212.678.3681


Domestic students may only petition to waive Columbia Student Health Insurance if you have an alternative comparable insurance. Please refer to the criteria for the alternative comparable insurance here. If you meet the criteria, you will be able to petition to waive through a link on the MyTC portal. Once you have filled in your information on MyTC portal, you will only receive written correspondence (e-mail) from our office if you have missing information (e.g. need a picture of your insurance card, copy of benefits, etc.) or if your plan is found to not be comparable. 

Please note that the Columbia Health & Related Services Fee cannot be waived under any circumstances. For more information on the Columbia Health & Related Services Fee, please refer to the related FAQ below.

Yes. Waivers are only valid for one full academic year (September - August).

Should your alternative coverage extend past one full academic year, and you meet criteria for automatic enrollment, you will need to submit a request to waive again.

No. You cannot have the Columbia Student Health Insurance without the Columbia Health & Related Services Fee. Due to the structure of the Columbia Student Health Insurance plan, your primary care physicians operate through the Columbia Health & Related Services Fee. As the plan is a referral-based policy, all visits must go through Columbia Health (Medical or Counseling & Psychological Services) first. 

The period of coverage extends from August 15 - August 14 each year. For more information, please refer to our Period of Coverage and Health Fees page. 

Unfortunately, once you enroll in the Columbia Student Health Insurance, you will no longer be able to use your current primary care physician*. However, you will be able to choose a new primary care physician within Columbia Health (Medical Services). 

*You may be able to continue using your primary care physician if they are outside of a 50-mile radius from Columbia University AND participate in Aetna as an insurance provider.  


Columbia Student Health Insurance includes one cleaning and set of x-rays per academic year at these participating locations. Please contact them for an appointment. A $20 copay will be requested at the time of visit. 


We offer a Vision One Discount Program that offers discounts on optics (prescription and non-prescription). For more information please refer to our Vision Care page.

The Columbia Health & Related Services Fee is in place so that students have easy access to a physician, nutritionist, and a psychological counselor, for a per semester fee (Fall and Spring). This fee is mandatory for all full-time students (12 billable credits) or students living in the residence halls, or International students at Teachers College and may not be waived. Full-time students who waive the Columbia Student Health Insurance Plan are still required to pay the Columbia Health Fee and are automatically enrolled. 

For elligible part-time students, the Columbia Health & Related Services Fee is not required. If you would like to opt into the Columbia Health Fee, to have access to these great benefits, that is an option for you. Please contact our office for the appropriate enrollment form.

One of our efforts is to increase information access as well as support the Columbia University Environmental Stewardship Plans.  As part of these strategies Aetna will no longer automatically mail insurance cards.  We are encouraging students to add the Aetna Navigator function to their phone for 24/7 digital access to their insurance cards.  Students will also be able to print a copy of their insurance card 24/7 using the Aetna Navigator website and will also have the option to call Aetna Customer Service to request an insurance card be mailed.

Yes, you can enroll via the link found on MyTC portal. For directions on enrolling, please refer to our How to Enroll page.

Yes. If you are enrolled in the Columbia Student Health Insurance, you will need a referral from your primary care physician (PCP) at Columbia Health to see specialists. Referrals are for your diagnosis, not for your doctor (e.g. if you have a referral to get a mole checked and the dermatologist checks and finds a rash, you will need another referral to check the rash). 

Referrals for specialists/diagnoses are valid for the entire calendar year and can easily be renewed by consulting with your PCP at Columbia Health.

All proof of insurance coverage can be obtained through Aetna. Please call their customer support line at 1-800-859-8471.

Under the Columbia University Student Health Insurance Plan, students are covered for travel abroad under the On-Call International program. For all information concerning travel medical insurance, please view the Travel Assistance Services section on the Aetna Student Health page

Please submit your claims to the following address: 
Aetna Student Health 
P.O. Box 981106 
El Paso, TX 79998 

On occasion, the claims investigation process will require additional information in order to properly adjudicate the claim. This investigation will be handled directly by Aetna. 

Customer Service Representatives are available 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday, for any questions. 

Please note: 

1.     Bills must be submitted within 120 days from the date of treatment
2.     Payment for Covered Medical Expenses will be made directly to the hospital or physician concerned, unless bill receipts and proof of payment are submitted. 
3.     If itemized medical bills are available at the time the claim form is submitted, attach them to the claim form. Subsequent medical bills should be mailed promptly to the above address. 
4.     You will receive an “Explanation of Benefits” when your claims are processed. The Explanation of Benefits will explain how your claim was processed, according to the benefits of your Student Accident and Sickness Insurance Plan.
For prescriptions, all claims will need to be submitted to Aetna Pharmacy Management. More information about the process can be obtained by calling 800-238-6279. The form can be foundhere.

In the event a Covered Person disagrees with how a claim was processed, he/she may request 
a review of the decision. The Covered Person’s request must include why he/she disagrees with 
the way the claim was processed. The request must also include any additional information that 
supports the claim (e.g., medical records, Physician’s office notes, operative reports, 
Physician’s letter of medical necessity, etc.). Please submit all requests to: 

P.O. Box 14464 
Lexington, KY 40512 
Or call in the appeal to Customer Service using the toll-free telephone number shown on the 
member ID card: (800) 859 - 8471 

For more detailed information please refer to our Prescription Drug Claim Procedure web page.

You can add your spouse, domestic partner, or children as a dependent. We will need a government-issued marriage and/or domestic partnership license for enrollment for your partner. If you want to enroll your children, we will need a copy of your child's birth certificate. 

All documents must be submitted in English. If the original document is not in English, it must betranslated and notarized

Please refer to our Dependent Coverage webpage for additional information.

  • If you already waived the Columbia Student Health Insurance for the Autumn Semester, the waiver will be extended to the Spring Semester unless you notify our office about a “change of life event” that qualifies you for late enrollment.  Qualifying change of life events include:
    • Surpassing the maximum age for coverage as a dependent under a parent’s health insurance plan. 
    • Termination of health insurance under a partner’s or employer’s plan. 
  • Students who wish to enroll in one of the Columbia Student Health Insurance plans following a change of life event must email to submit a Petition to Enroll form to our office.