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Graduate School

Health Insurance

Required Health Insurance

Who is required to have health insurance?

  • Graduate students enrolled in 6+ credit hours
  • Graduate assistants
  • International students
  • Students enrolled in School of Medicine graduate programs

* Exception:  Students in fully online/distance programs are automatically waived from this requirement.  These students must enroll in the plan voluntarily.

University Student Health Insurance Plan

The University Student Health Insurance plan is available to all enrolled graduate students.  If using this plan, you must inform the company that you want to enroll in the coverage BEFORE August 1 (Fall) and BEFORE January 1 (Spring) so that it doesn't lapse.  Early class registration and insurance activation every Fall and Spring will allow you to maintain continuous coverage.

Mandatory Insurance

If you meet the requirements for health insurance listed above, the Mandatory Insurance Fee will be set on your Bursar statement (available in  To expedite coverage, you must enroll in classes for the upcoming semester and activate your insurance coverage.  Once the university sends your information to Academic Health Plans (AHP), the current insurance provider,  AHP will send a notification email with instructions to enroll/accept the insurance or waive/opt out.  You must enroll/accept the insurance before  every semester to keep continuous coverage.  Once enrolled, you will have access to your insurance card and account numbers. Refer to the University Student Health Insurance Plan for more information.

Voluntary Insurance 

US Citizens who are enrolled in less than 6 credit hours or are in fully online programs can choose to purchase health insurance through the university.  Enroll in the Voluntary Health Insurance on the AHP enrollment website.  General students will use Voluntary Students/USC - Columbia option.  However, Z-Status and fully online Graduate Assistants will need to  select the Z-Status option.

  • Who may need to enroll voluntarily?
    • US citizens who are enrolled in 1-5 credit hours.  This especially pertains to students approved for Special Enrollment/Z-Status  who must enroll via the designated "Z-Status" portal on the Opt-In page.
    • US citizens who are enrolled in a fully-online graduate program (shows as a Distance Education concentration in your profile.)
    • Any student admitted in a Summer term who needs insurance must enroll voluntarily in the insurance plan by the June 1 enrollment deadline.
  • How do I pay if I enroll voluntarily?
    • US Citizens approved for Special Enrollment/Z-Status and fully online GAs must enroll through the Voluntary Z-Status Student portal (scroll past the campus options) on the AHP website to have billing transferred to their University Bursar statement. 
    • All others must pay the insurance company directly 

Students Who Already Have Health Insurance

Students with health insurance need to waive out of the university health insurance plan if they do not want to be billed for it. 

Waiving Out

You will need to submit proof of your health insurance during the waiver period each term or you will be billed for the university health insurance plan. 


Frequently Asked Questions

Early class registration and early activation of coverage before each semester is the key!  The first step is to enroll in 6 credit hours to qualify for the mandatory insurance.  (See instructions regarding voluntary insurance if you will enroll in less than 6 credit hours.)    AHP sends notification emails instructing students to enroll/accept the insurance or waive/opt out.  You must enroll/accept the insurance before August 1 (Fall) and before January 1 (Spring) to keep continuous coverage.  Without course enrollment, coverage will lapse.  Without activation, coverage will show as pending until the university 'locks' you in around  September 15 for Fall, and early February for Spring.

Full-time PhD* students and students hired as Graduate Assistants are eligible for the health insurance subsidy.  Refer to the Health Insurance Subsidy page for more information.

*Due to budgetary concerns, non-PhD doctoral students are not eligible for the subsidy unless hired as graduate assistants.

If your program is formally identified as being fully online, the mandatory insurance requirement is automatically waived. (Students enrolled in a fully online program have a Distance Education concentration showing on their profile.)

Students meeting all criteria listed below need to voluntarily enroll through the Z-Status portal on the AHP website:

  • US Citizen
  •  enrolling in 1-5 credit hours
  •  approved for Z-Status for the current semester
  •  not hired as a graduate assistant
  •  want the insurance coverage


International students do not need to enroll voluntarily. You are automatically set up with the mandatory insurance. However, you will need to respond to the link in the AHP notification email to either accept or waive out of the coverage.

Graduate Assistants whose hire has been fully approved through the HR process will automatically receive the mandatory insurance. You do not need to voluntarily enroll in the plan; however, you will need to respond to the link in the AHP notification email to either accept or waive out of the coverage.  (Note the exception for US Citizens in fully online programs)

While insurance coverage is mandatory for most graduate students, anyone who is covered under another insurance plan may waive/opt out of the University Student Health Insurance if the other plan provides comparable (or better) coverage. Details are provided on the University Health Services Waive Out webpage.

Note that waiving the student health plan leaves you ineligible for the full-time PhD and GA insurance subsidy. (The university acknowledges and appreciates subsidy-eligible students accepting the financial responsibility of waiving the insurance when other coverage is available.)

When a qualifying event occurs (e.g., loss of other coverage or an actively enrolled student arriving to the US from another country mid-semester), enroll through the portal for Students with a Qualifying Life Event. Contact for more information.

Only the student is covered by the mandatory insurance and the subsidy. However, you may voluntarily enroll your dependents in the AHP Health Insurance plan AFTER you have enrolled and accepted your insurance coverage. Payment for dependent coverage is made directly to the insurance company.

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