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From Sofia, Bulgaria:

My younger son is nearly 18 and since year and a half has Type 1 diabetes. His diabetes is fully controlled and his condition is stable and relatively good for this transient age. He is now applying to American universities in order to be enrolled as a student in the fall of this year, in 9 months. He has very high scores in the SAT 1 and TOEFL exams, so there is a chance that he will gain a financial aid to become a college student. Without financial aid I wouldn't be able to provide for his tuition and living costs. Please answer my questions:

  1. Are there some additional financial burdens for diabetics studying at US universities, such as additional health insurance fee, etc.? Is there a possibility to apply for additional financial aid on that ground? Universities, to which my son has applied, are Bates College, Lewiston, Maine, and University of Bridgeport, Bridgeport, Connecticut.

  2. In our country, Bulgaria, insulin and other needed medicaments, as well as regular health care, are completely free of charge (government provided) for registered diabetics. I believe the same is true for US citizens in the USA. What is the situation of foreign students in the USA? Can they receive free insulin and, if not, what are the approximate retail prices of human insulin in the USA?

I believe you understand very well why I am asking these questions on behalf of my son. I would be very grateful if I receive your answer.


Congratulations on both your son's academic achievement and his excellent control of diabetes.

Every University in the US has its own policy regarding health insurance. Medical insurance in the US has become more complicated. Let me explain medical insurance in general in the US. There are many private health insurance programs in the US. Almost all provide for emergency hospital care (the most expensive and the most difficult to predict). Most also provide for visits to physicians outside of the hospital. Most, but not all plans pay for medications (some plans have separate dental, mental health, and physical medicine parts too.)

Most universities in the US that have many students who live on campus and come from out of state have their own doctors on campus who provide routine medical care if you get sick. The cost for this on campus health service is usually covered in the tuition, but some schools may not have this service or may charge extra. Coverage for emergency hospitalization, medicines, and specialists will vary from school to school. You may have to pay for a separate plan. You may also have to pay extra if your child needs to see a diabetes specialist or any other specialists.

Medicines are not provided for free by the US government but are covered by many, but not all, health insurance plans. If you get supplies for free from your government, your son should probably bring as much as possible with him. Make sure to check that the same brand and strength of insulin you use in Bulgaria is available in the US. If not, be sure to consult with your doctor in Bulgaria, or one in the US how to convert to US insulin if that is necessary. If you are not using U-100 insulin in Bulgaria, you will need different syringes if you use U-100 insulin in the US (the only strength available in the US).

If the school you are applying to requires you to pay for extra health insurance, they will probably include the cost of that insurance in their financial aid consideration. If they don't, be sure to remind them. If you decide to purchase your own supplemental insurance, you will have to write them a letter explaining your child's "extra cost" of education in the US.

I suggest you contact the universities directly first to find out what their policy is for international students regarding health insurance and whether they would advise you to purchase any supplemental insurance. You can contact both Bates and University of Bridgeport through the Internet. Their web sites are:

There are also private organizations not associated with the universities that give scholarships. You can check the following web sites to see if there is any scholarship that your son might be eligible for. If you apply for any of these scholarships, you should be sure to let them know if your son will have extra health costs.

Finally, Eli Lilly, one of the companies that makes insulin, is offering a scholarship to teens with diabetes for college. For more information, see:

Costs of diabetes supplies varies from city to city and state to state. You can sometimes purchase them for less money through the mail. The cost of one bottle of insulin is approximately $18.


Original posting 31 Jan 98


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Last Updated: Tuesday April 06, 2010 15:08:56
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