Healthcare in the USA

In this section:
  • Healthcare System
  • Medical Insurance
  • Inadequate Health Insurance

What should I know about the Healthcare system in the U.S.?

Here are a few bullet points about the unique aspects of the U.S. healthcare system:

  • Health insurance is not universal in the U.S. Not everyone is automatically covered. Many people have insurance through their employer or their school. There are also health insurance programs for low-income individuals (for more information, see the FAQ below "I am concerned I don't have adequate health or dental insurance for myself, my spouse, partner or children. What should I do?" ). Health insurance is highly recommended, since health care is very expensive, and MIT requires health insurance for all students and dependents. Beginning in 2008, health insurance is mandatory for all Massachusetts residents. If you or your dependents are not insured, you may have to pay a tax penalty. Students can use health insurance from their home countries if the insurance coverage meets the Massachusetts State Regulations for required health coverage. In order to use their home coverage, students must have the policy checked with the Health Plans office at MIT Medical to make sure it is sufficient.
  • Some healthplans require you to choose a doctor, also known as primary care provider from the insurance company’s list, wheras others allow you to choose any doctor you like. If you have the family plan, each family member can select his or her own primary care provider. Refer to section ‘Finding a doctor’ for further details.
  • It is important to be a little early for medical appointments, since you will need time to check in and fill out any necessary paperwork. Learn how to get the most out of your appointment
  • Be sure to bring your health plan card with you to all medical appointments. If you have questions about what services are covered by your insurance and what services cost an additional fee, please visit the MIT Medical website or contact the MIT Medical Member Services office at 617-253-5979 or
  • Be aware that many of the medications that can be purchased over the counter at pharmacies or drug stores in other countries can only be obtained with a doctor's prescription in the U.S. Sometimes, the reverse is also true, and you may find medicines in U.S. supermarkets that are only available from a pharmacist in other countries.

For more information about MIT Medical and the MIT Medical health plan, visit the MIT Medical website

How do I choose medical insurance?

Your choices depend on your visa status and your position at MIT. You can either bring health insurance from your home country (but make sure it covers you in the U.S.) or acquire one in Boston.

Learn about MIT health plans.

Students are automatically enrolled in, and billed for, the MIT Student Extended Insurance Plan. You can decide to waive this coverage if you are already enrolled in another insurance plan that fulfills the necessary requirements. You would then have the basic MIT Student Medical Plan which is free and included with your tuition.

International students must have health insurance which is based in the US. If you have questions, contact the International Students Office (Room 5-133, Tel 617-258-5483, e-mail or click here.

Families are not automatically enrolled. You must sign up under the family plan to obtain health coverage for your spouse and dependents.

If you are an employee at MIT, find out more about medical health insurance by visiting the MIT Employee Benefits office. The 2011 healthplans and rates  are up.
MIT Affiliates are eligible for health coverage while they are at MIT.

If you are an International Scholar, you can find out more about health plans other than MIT's by visiting the International Scholars Office (4-105, Tel 617-253-2851, e-mail or their website
J Visa holders must have health insurance that meet certain requirements.

Before choosing a health plan, you may want to consider the following:
  • What medical services are covered by the plan?
  • What are the fees that I have to pay, if any, for a doctor's visit, laboratory tests, a surgery, a hospital stay, drugs and medicine?
  • Does the plan also cover dental work, optometry/eye services (eye exams, contact lenses)?

I am concerned that I don't have adequate health insurance for myself, or my spouse, partner, or children. What should I do?

If you are of low or moderate income, you can explore several options.
  • MassHealth is the Massachusetts state insurance program. Family size and income determine if you are eligible. Immigration status does not affect eligibility for MassHealth, but it might affect the types of benefits provided. Dental coverage is limited for adults.
  • Children's Medical Security Plan (CMSP) provides access to insurance coverage for all children under age 19 residing in Massachusetts. Uninsured children who are not eligible for MassHealth can get healthcare services through the CMSP. Dental coverage is provided.
  • Commonwealth Care is a low-cost health insurance program. You must be at least 19 to enroll. Children are not covered. You must also meet certain income and visa requirements to be eligible. 
All of the above are state-run health programs. To apply, fill out a Medical Benefit Request (MBR) form (pdf file), and they will let you know which, if any, of the programs you qualify for. If you have questions, call the Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA) Connections at 1-877-637-2273. 

If you do not qualify for any state-sponsored program, you will have to pay for health insurance on your own. You can use Commonwealth Choice, a state-run service that can help you shop and compare insurance plans that are suitable for you. 

Last Updated: April 2010