By Md Sazzad Hossain
Some University of Mississippi international students who have dependents are struggling to afford health care. One of these students is Elias Mahmud, a Ph.D. student at the Department of Geology and Geological engineering.
Mahmud arrived from Bangladesh with his wife and five-year-old daughter in August, 2021. Recently, Mahmud’s daughter came down with an infection and needed medical attention. But while Mahmud has health insurance, his wife and daughter do not.
“It [creates] tension for me, not having insurance for my daughter and wife. If they become sick like my daughter is sick now, how could they be treated? It shouldn’t be a burden for me,” Mahmud said. “I feel hopeless sometimes because I don’t have the money to pay for my family’s health care.”
Many international students at the Ole Miss have families who came to the U.S. with them. While international students have health insurance, the university does not provide the same for their families. The Director of the Office of Global Engagement at the University of Mississippi Jean Robinson said that according to the university policy, only students enrolled at the university receive health insurance coverage, whereas any dependents must make their own arrangements.
“Dependents can enroll in the plan and will need to pay the company directly,” Robinson said. “Dependents are also welcome to arrange for their own insurance through other companies.”
The university offers subsidies to international students who are graduate assistants to help reduce the costs of insuring their families. However, health insurance for family members provided through the university costs $2,000 per person on a yearly basis. Mahmud said he is only getting a small monthly stipend and his visa does not allow him to seek other jobs, which makes it difficult to afford additional health insurance costs. After his daughter got sick he found a medical clinic in Oxford that offered him a discount to treat her, but even with the discount the doctor’s visit cost them almost $200.
“She got a fever a few months ago, so I gave her some over-the-counter medicine to help her to recover and I didn’t go to a doctor,” he added.
Mahmud said that the health care issues he has been dealing with have affected his success in classes.
“If you’re stressed and you don’t have money to bear the cost of health insurance or health treatments for your family it affects your concentration”, Mahmud sai.
Assistant Dean of Graduate Studies at the The School of Journalism and New media Marquita Smith agreed that lack of health coverage is a big issue.
“It could just be a gap in services that we did not consider that people would need to have extended coverage for families,” Smith said. “If students are constantly dealing with the tension of not having the medical care they need in case of an emergency, colds or flu or anything can be a problem.”
Smith said the university needs to do better in helping international students secure health insurance coverage for their families.
“I think there are some areas we need to work on in terms of the institution and figuring out ways to provide better service and better coverage for families,” Smith said. “If we’re going to bring families over, we certainly have some responsibility.”