Do you intend to spend a significant amount of time abroad? If so, you should think about purchasing a top-notch overseas health insurance plan to take care of your medical requirements.
In the event that something untoward occurs while you are travelling and you need to get medical attention for a sickness or emergency, an all-encompassing foreign health insurance plan can be your lifeline. If you need a visa, you may also need coverage across the majority of the world because you frequently have to provide evidence that you have sufficient medical coverage.
One of the most challenging parts of living in a foreign country is navigating the healthcare system and whether it caters to expats. In most cases, the insurance policy you have at home won’t cover when you leave your country, so international health insurance is required. This is why it is essential to know how international health insurance works.
International health insurance— as the name suggests— is designed to cover your medical needs while you are in a foreign country. So, this type of insurance is the same as traditional health insurance, except it covers your medical cost when you are living abroad.
What Does International Health Insurance Cover?
Most international health insurance plans offer coverage for the following, but you can choose what you wish to cover and to what extent:
- In-patient medical treatment: hospitalization, surgery, intensive care unit, anaesthesia, lab tests and X-rays.*
- Out-patient medical treatment: physician visit, specialist visit, psychiatrist visit, urgent care, emergency room, etc.*
- Emergency services*
- Prescription medication*
- Dental coverage.
- Vision coverage.
- Mental health care.
- Pre-existing health conditions.
- Evacuation or repatriation.
- Travel health insurance.
*These items are usually included on the “basic coverage” plans. This means most insurance companies will cover them, whereas the rest of the items may or may not be included on an insurance policy, but you may be able to purchase them as add-ons.
Is International Health Insurance Mandatory?
International health insurance is not mandatory, but most expats prefer global insurance because it offers peace of mind. So, if you have international health insurance, you won’t have to worry about medical issues while in a foreign country.
International Health Insurance vs Travel Health Insurance
When going on a trip abroad, you have likely bought travel health insurance. You know it covers medical emergencies abroad – same as international health insurance. However, if you want to move overseas long-term, travel insurance is not a viable option.
For one, travel insurance is short-term and only covers medical emergencies. Pre-existing conditions, maternity, dental, etc. are rarely included in travel insurance. Travel insurance is meant to protect you against any unexpected losses during a holiday or business trip, not for settled health coverage. But, if you are already an expat and want to travel abroad for a short time, then return to your country of residence, you may want to check out travel insurance options for expats.
- US Health Insurance
- Germany health insurance
- Mexico health insurance
- Thailand health insurance
- Costa Rica Health Insurance
- Spain Health Insurance
- Health insurance in Spain for American expats
- Health Insurance for Digital Nomads
- Expat health insurance with worldwide coverage.
Pros of Having International Health Insurance
One of the most significant advantages of having international health insurance is that it covers you globally, i.e., wherever you are. In addition, international health insurance allows you access to English-speaking doctors in countries where English is not spoken, private healthcare— including private health facilities—and immediate care without waiting times. Plus, with international health insurance, you lower the costs of any medical expenses you would otherwise be required to pay out of pocket.
How Much Does International Health Insurance Cost?
International health insurance can cost you anywhere from $200 to $900 per month— with an average of $500. However, your international health insurance can vary depending on the following factors:
- International or local. International plans cost more simply because they have a wider range of coverage – both in terms of geographical scope as well as covered items – than local plans.
- Your age. Most companies have different prices for different age ranges. The prices increase along with the client’s age, and many companies stop offering coverage after a certain point (usually 75-85 years).
- The amount of coverage. If you purchase a plan with a $500,000 maximum, it will cost less than a plan with a $2,000,000 maximum. This is the amount you will be covered for on a yearly basis or per claim, depending on the policy.
- Covered items. If you subscribe to a basic plan, with just medical treatment, hospitalization, emergency services, etc. it will be less expensive than adding coverage for the “optional” items, such as maternity, dental, or mental health.
- The people included in the plan. Naturally, you would pay less for an individual medical insurance plan than for a plan which also covers your family members.
Remember: Do not choose the cheapest plan available. These types of plans are usually extremely limited, and will not give you the coverage you need. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, especially when it comes to health insurance.
To help you choose the best affordable international health insurance plan, you can head on to Insubuy or International Citizens Insurance and compare a list of insurance policies.
How to Purchase International Health Insurance?
Here is a brief summary of how you can purchase international health insurance:
- Find an international insurance provider. You can look for such a provider in your home country or refer to online companies that offer insurance policies specifically for global coverage.
- Check the insurance policies. Most providers will provide a basic insurance policy and a more comprehensive policy. The basic plan usually covers only emergency cases, while the comprehensive policy covers anything, from emergencies to dental and eyewear expenses.
- Buy your insurance plan. There are a few different ways how you can buy international insurance— the most common being:
- Directly— you can buy the insurance plan directly via the insurance company.
- Via an insurance agent— licensed insurance agent may be working for a specific company or several insurance companies and offer you the plans their clients have available.
- Via an insurance broker— the insurance broker will cater to your needs as a client and provide you with several options for your international health insurance policy.
- Retrieve your ID card. After you buy your international health insurance, your provider will equip you with an ID card containing your information and insurance details. You will need to present this card while visiting a healthcare center in a foreign country.
How Does International Health Insurance Work?
Here is an overview of how international health insurance works:
- You move abroad.
- You purchase international health insurance.
- You require medical attention while abroad.
- You collect the required documents.
- You pay for the medical costs in a foreign country.
Comparison marketplaces like Insubuy and International Citizens Insurance will also provide a comparative overview of several global insurance plans where you can pick and choose.
You Plan to Move Abroad
Before buying your international insurance policy, make sure that you actually need one. For example, if you stay in a foreign country only temporarily, i.e., less than a month, you might consider buying only travel insurance that will cover any medical emergencies during your stay. On the other hand, if you plan to live in a foreign country long-term, i.e., for work or family purposes, you should buy international health insurance.
So, usually, the following categories require international health insurance:
- Retired expats.
- Digital nomads.
- Foreign employees.
You Purchase International Health Insurance
Even though you are not legally obligated to buy international health insurance, you are highly advised to do this before moving abroad. This way, you will know that whatever injuries, illnesses, or emergency interventions you have are covered by your provider, no matter where you are.
You Require Medical Attention While Abroad
Let’s say, while you are abroad, you suffer an injury, get sick, or need a medical procedure. Whatever the reason, you can seek medical attention at your local health center. However, at these public health centers, you may experience longer waiting times and difficulty accessing an English-speaking doctor. With your international health insurance, on the other hand, you can access private healthcare facilities thus eliminating waiting times.
In cases where your condition may not be treatable abroad, you will be evacuated to your home country. Either way, your international health insurance will cover these expenses if you purchase a reparation and evacuation coverage plan.
You Collect the Required Documents
After you get treated at the medical center abroad, you must collect a set of documents so you can make an insurance claim. This includes the bills and receipts from the hospital, prescription notes (including your info, your doctor’s name, the pharmacy details, etc.), the medical procedures you undertook, and any other information required by your insurance provider.
Please save a copy of every document if you need to re-send them to your insurance provider. If you’re not sure what documents your insurance company needs, contact your provider since they offer a 24/7 help hotline and will be able to assist you.
You Use Your International Health Insurance to Cover Medical Costs
There are two ways in which your international insurance provider will pay for your medical costs while abroad:
- Directly. Your insurance provider will pay the bill directly to the hospital if you are in the same provider network. You still need to fill out the insurance claim form. The hospital or medical center where you received treatment can bill the insurance company directly based on your insurance ID.
- Via an insurance claim. If your bill is not paid directly, you must pay the expenses yourself and file an insurance claim. You need every detailed invoice and receipt issued by the hospital, your doctor, and your pharmacy to make an insurance claim. You will need to attach these documents to your insurance claim form and send them to your provider. Most providers will reimburse 80% of expenses, depending on your insurance plan.
Note: When filing an insurance claim, you need to fill out an insurance claim form for every medical condition treated.
How to Choose the Best International Health Insurance Plan?
The best health insurance plan is different for everyone, depending on specific needs. So, when choosing an expat health insurance plan, pay attention to the following:
- Is the coverage fixed or comprehensive? Fixed coverage plans are less expensive, but only pay a fixed amount per claim (which in some cases can be too low). Comprehensive coverage plans are more expensive, but the insurance company pays based on a percentage, which can be up to 100%.
- Does the insurance plan cover everything you need? Does it cover you at least for all basic medical emergencies and treatment?
- Will it cover you if you are abroad? If you intend to travel back to the US or to another country, do you have health insurance there? Does the plan have evacuation or repatriation coverage?
- What are the “optional” coverage options? Does it have dental coverage, or do you need to get that elsewhere? What about maternity?
- How much is the policy maximum? Is it on a yearly basis, lifetime, per claim, or unlimited?
- Is it renewable?
- How much is the deductible? How much do you have to pay yourself before the insurance company steps in and covers the rest?
- Does the plan cover pre-existing conditions? If yes, to what extent?
- Does the expat insurance company have a direct-claim procedure? Some insurance companies have agreements with certain hospitals, where the hospital can send the bill directly to the insurers, and you do not need to pay anything yourself. These are usually called “in-network” hospitals.
You can choose an expat health insurance plan that fits your needs best at Insubuy or International Citizens Insurance.
When Should You Get Health Insurance?
Some insurance plans have a waiting period during which they may not offer the full scope of coverage. So, the sooner you purchase, the more you can rest assured that you will be well taken care of in the event of an emergency.
Naturally, if you intend to subscribe to a local insurance plan, you will have to wait until you settle in.
In contrast, rules for national (public) insurance plans change depending on the country. But, you can purchase international health insurance at any point.
How to Make a Claim With International Health Insurance?
All health insurance companies have an emergency hotline, which you can call to ask for assistance. They also have their own determined procedures for processing a claim, which you will learn before you purchase the policy.
Some international insurance companies have a network of hospitals where you can receive treatment and the hospital sends the bill directly to the company – you don’t need to pay anything.
In other cases, you have to pay the bill and then make a claim to be reimbursed.
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