International health insurance coverage is a MUST if you are an expat working or living abroad. Unfortunately, out of the estimated 30-40 million expats worldwide, only less than half have valid health insurance plans.
Going without international health coverage presents major risks since medical treatment for illnesses or injuries in a foreign country may not be available or could prove very costly.
Furthermore, if you wish to be evacuated or taken home, you may find that medical evacuation costs could range anywhere from a few thousand dollars to over a $100,000, depending on the circumstances.
International health insurance is one of the most important parts of your financial security and gives you “peace of mind” while living abroad.
Finding the Right Health Insurance Plan
You can purchase expat health insurance plans online, through insurance brokers, intermediaries or directly through the providers themselves.
International health insurance companies typically divide the world into three areas. The first one is Europe. The second one is the rest of the world excluding US, Canada and the Carribean, and the third is worldwide including US, Canada and the Carribean.
When buying international health plans insurance, it is important to determine where you and your family will be based and where, how often and how long you will travel from your base country.
It is critically important to outline the medical needs of every member of the family to enable you to decide what type of plan is right for you.
Depending on your needs, you may opt to purchase basic international health insurance plan or go for comprehensive plans.
Basic health plans provide for in-patient or in-hospital care, covering hospital stays, physician and surgeon fees as well as laboratory tests.
A more comprehensive health coverage, with higher premiums, may cover rehabilitation, home nursing, childbirth, home delivery, organ transplants, diagnostic tests, prescription drugs, as well as other specialists fees.
Emergency travel medical and evacuation may be covered in some basic plans, although almost all international health insurance plans offer the option for an added fee.
This coverage takes care of transportation from anywhere in the world to the nearest center of medical excellence for emergency conditions, and includes return fare to the country of residence upon recovery.
Just like other health plans, expat health insurance plans have some restrictions and exclusions.
This includes pre-existing conditions, cosmetic treatment, care for sexually transmitted diseases, alcohol abuse, treatment related to menopause, pregnancy and childbirth.
Some plans however may cover normal or complicated delivery after a specific waiting period, usually 12 months after the policy starts. Other plans cover maternity if the insured becomes pregnant after becoming insured.
From a cost standpoint, comprehensive plans are more than double the basic in-hospital plans, and international health insurance plans that include the US and Canada (where medical costs are high) are generally two to three times more expensive than those without it. However, if you’re an American or a Canadian, or if you’re an expat who’s required to travel to these countries for extended periods then you’re better off with international health insurance that includes US/Canada.
When buying international health insurance, make sure you review at least 3 different plans from reputable health insurance providers.
Research your options, review the benefits and restrictions/exclusions. Make sure you read the fine print or ask questions until you fully understand what each plan offers. Compare the plans against your needs and choose wisely.
Moving to another country is challenging. Getting the right international health insurance is a critical step in ensuring that you’ve got your health and assets covered when you make the move.