Beyond Duty: Insurance Management in Education Abroad Programs
Braun, Harald, Gemmeke, Jürgen, International Educator
ALTHOUGH FOR MOST EDUCATION ABROAD PROFESSIONALS an in-depth discussion of the importance of proper insurance for students may have a similar allure to watching paint dry, the underlying importance of the quality of insurance that is required, offered, and eventually purchased cannot be overstated. When it comes to education abroad insurance the following questions are pivitol: Are the industry's minimum standards-those provisions that are either required by law or without which it would be reckless to operate any education abroad activity-enough? If not, what enhancements could be made? And, what could be done, on the grounds of moral responsibility of the field, to achieve an even better yet still realistic level of protection that might be best described as the "gold standard?"
An industry standard is not a good one if it merely takes the instiution a little beyond the reckless. Nor is a standard effective, even though at one time it was deemed sufficient, if it is not reviewed and amended to take into account changes in the way the world operates. This has specific relevancy for the field of education abroad. In this context, the field needs to go beyond mere compliance and needs to become proactive in extending the duty of care beyond "duty" by embracing standards that protect participants as effectively as possible while securing the interests of institutions, organizations, and individuals involved in all aspects of education abroad. We also need to look beyond those standards that are drawn from U.S. domestic perspectives. Education abroad is, by its very nature, exposing participants and institutions to risks outside of, and beyond, those incurred in the United States. The risks are not necessarily greater but they will be different.
During the last 20 years, education abroad has not only expanded enormously, it has also considerably enhanced its operational elements. Those in, or serving, the education abroad field spend more time than ever thinking about ethical marketing, preparation for study abroad, reentry, safety and security, experiential education, academic outcomes and so on. The Forum on Education Abroad's review of "Standards of Good Practice for Education Abroad"1 represents a major step forward in the process of professionalizing our field. Nevertheless, community awareness of issues of liability, risk, and insurance has received less significant, professional attention than other areas in the education abroad enterprise. And so it is that the primary objective of this discussion is to refocus attention to areas that are crucial for both the well-being of students and the security oi organizations and institutions.
The simplest summary of the minimum required is probably that found in the standards defined by The Council on Standards for International Educational Travel (CSIET).2
"The organization shall guarantee that every student is covered with adequate health and accident insurance. Such insurance shall: a) Protect students for the duration of their program, and b) Provide for the return of the student to his/her home in the event of serious illness, accident, or death during the program."
The most obvious issue in this context is the notion of "adequate." CSIET makes several useful efforts at defining what that might mean. The key factors are that adequate insurance, as defined by CSIET, should have the following characteristics:
* The provisions should be defined in English and coverage should make provision for both sickness and accident.
* Deductibles should be limited and reasonable.3
* Minimum sums covered should be $5,000 for mental and nervous disorders, $50,000 for each accident or illness, $10,000 for repatriation, and $7,500 for the repatriation of remains.
* There should be some provision to cover preexisting conditions after a one-year waiting period.
The standards proposed by CSIET provide a substantial starting point for some of the risks that may be incurred by (only) one of the participants in the educational enterprise: the participating student. …