One of the mandatory requirements for studying at Penn is health insurance that meets their very high requirements, which includes coverage up to $2,000,000, and for pre-existing conditions and mental health conditions, just to name a few. You have to either buy Penn's own insurance plan, the Penn Student Insurance Plan (PSIP), or buy an alternative plan that's approved by Penn, and apply for a waiver. I thought the PSIP was pretty damn expensive - $1,677 for the Spring Semester (January 1 - July 31) or $1,196 through May only. (And obviously, if you're staying for a year, it'll be even more expensive.) Surely there had to be a cheaper alternative to the PSIP!
So I Googled "upenn health insurance alternatives" and found this CollegeConfidential post that pointed me to PSI International Student & Scholar Health Insurance. It's only available for international students (F1 or J1 visa holders and their dependents), and you just select which school you're going to and it finds the appropriate plan. Their Diamond plan is tailored to Penn's requirements, so I promptly bought coverage for 5 months (January 10 - June 10) which will cover me for the Spring semester, as well as my travel afterwards. It came to $625 with a $0 deductible (it's $50 cheaper with a $500 deductible, but I didn't think that was worth it). And in the unlikely case that Penn rejects my waiver application with this insurance, PSI will provide a full refund.
Message: Do some basic research, save nearly $600.
Disclaimer: I'm not saying that PSI insurance is superior to Penn's insurance. All I'm saying is that it's a cheaper option, which already has very high standards (as set by Penn) and will probably cover anything that could conceivably happen. I am also not being paid by PSI to write this, I just wanted to make sure that students on a budget (by definition) like me are fully aware of the more affordable options that do exist out there.
[Edit 08/01/14: Got an email from Penn yesterday, and this insurance has been approved! So it works!]
[Edit 17/01/14: Another exchange student said that this plan also works, and is about $85 a month...]