Healthcare and Immunizations

Healthcare in the United States

Your to-do list covers healthcare in great detail, as does the Columbia University Healthcare site at However, you might find some of the following information useful:

Health care in the United States is very good but very costly. There is no national medical care system or insurance program. You must pay for medical services. Hospital costs in the New York area can be $2,000 a day, and that does not include physicians’ fees, which are also very high. One cannot afford to be without medical insurance.

For this reason, the University requires all full-time students and strongly urges all dependents either to subscribe to the University’s Student Health Insurance or to have proof of comparable medical coverage. If you believe that you already have, or can purchase a policy at home, be very sure that it is comparable to the one offered by Columbia. If not, you will not have your insurance requirement waived, and will end up paying for two. This has happened to international students in the past, so be careful. The Health Services web site has information on comparing medical coverage at

If you and any dependents are in J immigration status, immigration regulations relating to your status require you and your family to have a comprehensive health insurance policy in order to maintain your status.

The university offers a two-part health care program: the Health Service and the Student Medical Insurance. All full-time students are also required to pay the Student Health Service fee each semester. The Columbia University Health Service provides a comprehensive range of programs to help students stay healthy and productive during their time at Columbia. Primary care, counseling, health education, and other medical services are offered free or at a nominal charge to students who have paid the Health Service fee. The clinic is staffed by full-time professionals and part-time specialists. Morningside students use the University Health Service located on the third and fourth floors of John Jay Hall (212-854-2284), while those registered at the Medical Center use the Student Health Service located on the street level of 60 Haven Avenue (212-305-3400).

The Health Services does a mailing in the summer to incoming students with information describing both the Health Service and the health insurance offered to you. This is also available on their web site at Do read it and try to understand it. Most of us don’t think about health care unless and until we feel unwell. Negotiating health care systems can be overwhelming, especially when the system is unfamiliar to you. It’s even more of a challenge when you have many other responsibilities and priorities to attend to. Now, before you get here, is a good opportunity to read the information, while you have more time. The ISSO will have a representative from the Health Services at our Orientation program, so you will have an opportunity to get your questions answered.

If you will be accompanied by any family members, it is imperative that your dependents also have adequate medical insurance. Dependents may be covered under the Student Medical Insurance plan, but the plan may not be as comprehensive as you would like.

Healthcare and Pharmacies

Students pay approximately $300 per semester for basic medical services, not including a prescription plan (see your to do list). This basic coverage includes access to the center’s RNs and MDs, Emergency Room coverage up to $2,000, termination of pregnancy coverage up to $500, off-campus psychological service, and out-patient substance abuse treatment.

For additional or prescription coverage, students may elect to purchase a Student Medical Insurance Plan and many people opt for the schools more comprehensive plan (more covered, less copay).

For students with private insurance, pharmacies near Columbia and throughout New York City include CVSDuane Reade and Rite Aid.


New York State law means you MUST get an MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) injection or have documentary evidence to prove your previous vaccination or immunity to these ailments in order to enroll at school.

Many people from abroad may never have had a MMR injection as it has only recently been common practice for children to routinely have this inoculation. You may have had separate injections as a child but either way, you must be able to provide the required paperwork (which is on your to-do list) when you enroll for school.

If you do not have the right documentation we can not stress enough that you must sort this out as soon as possible, either by getting the appropriate information from your doctor and getting them to sign and fax the form that is on your to-do list or by getting the injections. This can be best done in your home country (as it takes time to arrange and also to prove immunity) but if you are already in the USA can be arranged by contacting health services,

The meningitis immunization is optional / recommended but not compulsory. You have the option on your to do list to say that you have declined it / don’t need it. We guess it depends if you like needles!


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