Ireland hikes mandatory health insurance for foreign students

Ireland has dramatically hiked the cost of insurance for international students studying there, due to changes in their immigration policies. The 

Irish immigration services had made it mandatory some years ago, for students from outside the European Economic Area to take a basic health cover for emergency medical expenses, which costs between approximately €40 to €150 per year. However, it was reported on January 22, by the Health Insurance Authority (HIA) that full-time international students in the country studying for more than a year are required to have a full health cover typically costing between €500 and €1,000. The HIA has directed insurance companies to stop selling basic health policies to international students by March 3.

There are more than 20,000 international students from outside the European Economic Area in Irish universities, and another 1,00,000  pursuing vocational studies in private colleges. The increase in insurance fees affects students coming from Asian countries the most, as the Euro exchange rate in these countries is pretty high. For example, for Indian students studying in Ireland, the Euro to Rupees exchange rate is 1:73. Thus, a basic health cover that earlier cost Indian students Rs.3000 to Rs. 10,000 would now cost them over Rs. 40,000. This exchange is worse for students from countries like Indonesia, where the Euro-Rupiah exchange rate is 1:14000. 

The Irish Government is hoping to increase the international student community in the country by more than 25 per cent in the next four years. Thus a hike in insurance costs is aimed to help the country become a €2 billion economy. The hike will be in effect for students buying an insurance after March 3, 2017. 

While notable figures in higher education in Ireland have publicly stated that a hike in insurance fees for international students would instead hamper the country’s efforts to attract more students, the HIA, however, seems pretty stern on their decision.