Health Insurance: A Glossary of Terms

Skip to content Skip to main navigation
Teachers College, Columbia University
Printer-friendly Version
Teachers College, Columbia University Logo

International Services

The Office of

Health Insurance: A Glossary of Terms

Accidental Death and Dismemberment: The amount the insurance will pay if you are killed or maimed accidentally.

Application Deadline: Sometimes you and/or your dependents must be enrolled in the insurance within a certain period after arrival in the U.S.

Coverage Period: The units of time in which the insurance can be bought (i.e.: six months, one year). Most policies are renewable, but the premiums may increase at renewal.

Coverage: The percent of costs the insurance will pay and the maximum amount up to which the insurance will pay per accident or illness, or per coverage period. The coverage starts after you pay the deductible.

Deductible: The part of a covered medical expense that the covered person is expected to pay before the benefit starts. For example, a $500 deductible means that the covered person is required to pay the first $500 of a covered expense before insurance benefits become available.

Dental: Most policies cover injuries to teeth, not preventive or maintenance dental care.

Dependent coverage: Coverage for your spouse or children. Sometimes, dependents can be enrolled in a policy independent of you.

Evacuation: The amount the insurance policy will pay if you need to be transported to your home country for medical treatment.

Exclusions: These are the injuries, illnesses or treatments for which the insurance will not pay. "Usual Exclusions" normally means pre-existing conditions, eye care, foot care, infertility and birth control, injuries while playing organized sports or piloting an airplane, injuries or death from war, terrorism, revolution or suicide, cosmetic surgery, experimental treatments, treatments administered by a member of your family, and expenses covered under other insurance policies you may have. This is not a complete list of exclusions. Different policies may have different exclusions.

Hospitalization: Usually includes a semi-private room, doctor's fees, drugs, x-rays, laboratory tests, etc. Sometimes there is a limit on the number of days covered.

Maternity: It includes visits to your doctor, the delivery and related hospital charges. Sometimes policies limit or do not offer this coverage. Some policies do not cover abortions.

Policy (whole): A contract with a health insurance company providing for a broad range of medical treatments and/or payments in case of accidents or illness. Most whole policies usually provide a standard set of benefits, but the provisions, conditions and benefits of different policies can vary widely.

Premium: The amount you must pay each month to purchase the insurance coverage. In some policies, the premium varies with the age of the insured(s).

Prescription: Coverage for medications ordered by a doctor for use outside of the hospital.

Repatriation: The amount the insurance company will pay to transport your remains to your country.

Supplement: A policy providing only very specific, limited benefits (i.e.: medical evacuation, repatriation of remains), and whose benefits can supplement benefits by another policy you already have. 

Tips for Surviving TC