In most cases, individuals and families who are living or traveling outside of their country of citizenship cannot rely on their basic medical insurance plan to provide adequate coverage around the world.
When traveling for extended periods of time, individuals are encouraged to look into purchasing an appropriate international health insurance plan. There are multiple types of international health insurance plans available on the market today, for individuals, businesses, students and other groups. These plans generally have eligibility requirements that are based on your country of residence and intended countries of travel, with travel to the United States being of particular importance. International health insurance plans are governed by different regulations than traditional domestic-based medical insurance programs that must meet Affordable Care Act standards and adhere to different eligibility requirements.
International health insurance plans range significantly in how much coverage is offered. While some plans can be practically as comprehensive as the average U.S.-based insurance plan, others provide policyholders with significantly less coverage than ACA compliance standards recommend. In most cases, the international health insurance plans that offer the most comprehensive coverage are also the ones with some of the highest premiums. Costs for international health insurance policies generally come from a combination of premium payments, deductibles and copayments or coinsurance fees. International health insurance plans are intended for long-term travelers, not those taking short vacations, and may only be suited to certain types of travelers. Keep reading for more information about how international health insurance plans work and whether this type of plan is the best one for you.
International health insurance plans provide comprehensive medical coverage to enrolled individuals and families no matter where they are in the world. This medical coverage should include health care services like inpatient and outpatient doctor’s visits, emergency and evacuation services and more. Many insurance providers give policyholders with international insurance plans the same sort of administrative support and client help as they do to other domestic-based health insurance plans. Not all insurance providers offer all types of international health insurance plans, but some of the most commonly available plans across the board include:
These international insurance plans are usually available at different coverage levels, just like national health insurance plans. IMG Global Medical Insurance, for example, offers applicants international health coverage at Bronze, Silver, Gold, Gold Plus and Platinum levels that reflect the coverage level designations used in most state health insurance marketplaces. The insurance provider GeoBlue, on the other hand, offers global medical coverage at three levels: Xplorer Essential, Select and Premier. In most international insurance policies, program enrollees have freedom to choose their doctors, as no insurance provider is able to have a comprehensive network of doctors in every country of the world. Some international plans require new policyholders to face a waiting period of six months or more to take advantage of some plan benefits. However, some international health insurance plans may differentiate coverage and out-of-pocket costs for “preferred” health care providers.
Eligibility requirements for international insurance plans vary significantly between insurance provider and insurance provider, with the main requirement pertaining to the age of the enrollee. Many companies have age restrictions for who can receive insurance benefits. Some insurance providers have citizenship requirements for some international insurance policies, but many are open to applicants from practically any country in the world. Other international insurance plan eligibility requirements are generally the same as those of other private medical insurance policies. When an individual submits an application for medical services, his or her application will be reviewed by a panel that will review the applicant’s medical history and gauge the risk of enrolling him or her. If an applicant has a serious pre-existing medical condition, this can be a grounds for application denial. Medical situations resulting from certain situations are often excluded from most international insurance policies, including those associated with acts of war, chaos due to hostilities, military actions, terrorism, civil commotion or nuclear explosions.
Not all international insurance plans offer the same levels of medical coverage, so it is important to look at the fine print of any international insurance policy you are considering investing in. Many international insurance policies have a maximum coverage limit that maxes out how much the insurance provider is willing to contribute to a policyholder’s medical costs of one million dollars or more, though some offer unlimited coverage possibilities. Most international insurance plans provide coverage for:
Out-of-pocket costs for most international insurance policies are a combination of regular premium payments, deductibles and sometimes copayments or coinsurance fees. The amount an applicant will be asked to pay is generally most related to the applicant’s age, location, current health status, any serious pre-existing health conditions and the amount and type of medical coverage desired. International insurance plans for individuals traveling to several countries across the world, excluding the U.S., can often find relatively comprehensive options for less than $50 a month. The out-of-pocket costs you may face with an international insurance plan may also change significantly on a per person basis if you add family member beneficiaries to the policy.
An important element that seriously increases the cost of international insurance plans is the inclusion of coverage for travel within the United States. Relative to the rest of the world, the U.S. has the most expensive health care system in the world. As such, individuals looking for even short-term coverage for a brief stay in the United States will have to pay significantly higher premiums than those individuals who need coverage for most other countries around the world. In fact, including coverage for the United States in an international insurance plan can easily double or triple your total annual premium costs. Some international insurance policies may include exceptions for other countries with particularly costly health care systems, including Canada, Hong Kong and others. Many insurance providers can offer you a customized insurance policy that will cover you only in the countries of your choice, helping you to avoid paying for health insurance coverage that you will never use. Worldwide coverage international insurance plans are best for people who are traveling between multiple countries and who may not know exactly where they may visit in the near future.
Choosing the right international medical policy for your needs begins by making sure this is the type of health care plan that is best suited to your needs. If you are going abroad for a short period of time, find out what kind of coverage for traveling your domestic health insurance plan includes or look into picking up some light travel insurance, which is designed to provide coverage for the specific types of issues faced while one vacation or short trips. Because international health care coverage is not travel insurance, do not expect a plan to provide you with reimbursement for lost luggage, cancelled itineraries or other non-medical travel related issues.
If you are sure you could benefit from an international health insurance policy, your first step is to come up with a rough list of where you think you’ll be traveling in the net year, if possible. In many cases, you can purchase a worldwide coverage policy that will give you decent medical coverage almost everywhere except for the few excluded countries like the United States and maybe Canada. If you are an American resident, note how long you can remain at home and stay within your coverage limitations. Make sure that whatever countries you know you will be traveling to are covered. If you would like to insure any family members, make sure that the plan you are considering allows for dependents to be added at an agreeable price. Especially if you have a pre-existing condition or require regular prescription medication, it is also important to check that care and medication for that issue is covered at an acceptable level.