International Health Insurance

Expats, people who live outside their native country, face unique challenges when it comes to maintaining good health and being prepared in case of an emergency. One of the biggest concerns most expats have is knowing how to get international health insurance to cover themselves and their families abroad. To ease that stress, this article outlines the top five benefits of international health insurance for expats.

International Health Insurance

Choosing international health insurance can seem confusing, particularly if you’re the kind of person who likes to have all the details before signing up for something. The good news is that it’s not that hard – it just takes a little time and research to ensure you’re getting the right plan. Here are the top five benefits of international health insurance and what you should look for in your search.

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One of the most crucial things you need to consider when moving overseas is your ex-pat health insurance. The purpose of ex-pat health insurance, as the name implies, is to pay for your medical costs while visiting or relocating overseas.

In essence, international health insurance operates similarly to domestic health insurance: you choose a plan, decide on the scope of coverage, and pay monthly or yearly premiums. Then, if you become sick or have an accident, your health insurance provider will pay for your medical care, hospital stay, and pharmaceutical expenses up to the predetermined limit.

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What is Health Insurance

Health insurance is a company that protects individuals or groups of people against the risk of incurring medical expenses. You can get health insurance from your employer or the government or buy it yourself. There are two types of health insurance: One type is called catastrophic coverage and will only cover significant emergencies and large hospital bills. The other type is comprehensive coverage and covers regular doctor visits and any sudden illnesses or accidents. International health insurance usually only covers emergencies outside of the country, so ensure you have at least basic coverage in your home country in case something goes wrong!

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What International Health Insurance

Protecting your health is one of the most important aspects of life. International health insurance policies offer coverage no matter where you are in the world and can give you peace of mind. Some policies cover more than just medical emergencies, such as pregnancy, disability, cancer treatment, and evacuation/repatriation if you're injured or ill. Policies that include a wellness program help to keep you healthy by providing fitness classes, nutrition advice, and support for quitting smoking.
Policies that cover accidents will also cover accidental death, dismemberment, or loss of limb resulting from an accident while traveling abroad.
International health insurance is often cheaper than domestic coverage because your home country's laws do not regulate it.

Ex.pat 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 ex-pat insurance. However, travel insurance is not viable if you want to move overseas long-term.

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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 protects you against any unexpected losses during a holiday or business trip, not for settled health coverage. But, if you are already an ex-pat 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 ex-pats.

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National Health Insurance for Expats

If the country you are moving to has a public insurance scheme, then as a working resident, you will likely be able to use it.  National health insurance only pays for treatment in public hospitals, so if you want to get treated elsewhere, you must pay from your pocket or purchase a private health insurance scheme.

Expats employed in Thailand automatically pay into a public health insurance scheme through social security contributions (taxes). This allows them to go to certain public hospitals and clinics in Thailand and receive free treatment and care. But if they want treatment in one of the higher-quality private hospitals, they either have to pay out-of-pocket or invest in a private or international ex-pat health insurance scheme.

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Private Health Insurance for Expats

Expats can purchase a health insurance plan from a local company anytime after they move. Private health insurance plans cover treatment in private and public hospitals, medication, hospitalization, surgeries, etc.

However, they are limited because they do not cover emergency evacuation, repatriation to your home country, or medical treatment abroad.

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International Health Insurance for Expats

International health insurance is the same as any other type of medical insurance, with one addition: you are covered for medical treatment in a wider geographical area, even worldwide. This is why it is a popular option for ex-pats who travel around a lot or who move back and forth between countries.

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How to Purchase Expat Health Insurance?

You can purchase ex-pat health insurance online before you travel through comparison marketplaces such as Insubuy or International Citizens Insurance which allow you to compare different plans before settling on one.

 1 You must enter your personal information (age, family members, and where you wish to be covered).
 2 You will see a list of plans which you can browse through. Always make sure to read the policies carefully to learn what they include.
 3 Select the plans you think are most befitting to your needs.
4 Click on the “Compare” button. You can see the featured plans side-by-side and read through them more detailedly.
5 You can select which way you want to pay and whether you wish to pay on a yearly, monthly, quarterly, or six-month basis.

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You are purchasing a health insurance plan locally.

You can also wait to get to your destination country and purchase a plan with a local company. In that case, you must approach a company directly and go through the options. Make sure to read the policy before purchasing.

However, before you buy an ex-pat health insurance plan, double-check these:

 Do you have national health insurance? Suppose you are eligible for national health insurance mandated by the government. In that case, you will likely want private health insurance, which fills in any gaps that national insurance leaves, such as treatment in private hospitals.
 Does your employer offer health insurance? If your employer offers a health insurance plan, be well acquainted with the policy before signing up for it. As an ex-pat, you will also want a health insurance plan which covers you abroad. A pre-selected plan could have less coverage than you want or need (or more). If your employer's plan does not suit your needs, learn if you can opt-out and choose your insurers.

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How to Choose the Best Expat Health Insurance Plan?

The best health insurance plan differs for everyone, depending on specific needs. So, when choosing an ex-pat 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). Extended 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 protect you, at least for all actual medical emergencies and treatment?
  • Will it cover you if you are abroad? Do you have health insurance if you intend to travel back to the US or another country? 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 every year, 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 ex-pat insurance company have a direct-claim procedure? Some insurance companies have agreements with specific 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.

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What Does Expat Health Insurance Cover?

Most ex-pat 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, anesthesia, 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.
  • Maternity.
  • Mental health care.
  • Physiotherapy.
  • Rehabilitation.
  • Pre-existing health conditions.
  • Evacuation or repatriation.
  • Travel health insurance.

*These items are usually included in 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 ex-pat insurance policy, but you may be able to purchase them as add-ons.

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When Should You Get Expat Health Insurance?

It would help if you got ex-pat health insurance before you officially move abroad, or at least as soon as possible. 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 an emergency.

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 ex-pat insurance at any point.

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How Much Does Expat Health Insurance Cost?

The price of health insurance plans for ex-pats depends on the following factors:

  • International or local. International plans cost more simply because they have a more comprehensive range of coverage – in terms of geographical scope and covered items – than local plans.
  • Your age. Most companies have different prices for different age ranges. The prices increase 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 every year or per claim, depending on the policy.
  • Covered items. 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.

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  • How to Make a Claim With Expat Health Insurance?

    All health insurance companies have an emergency hotline, which you can call to ask for assistance. They also have procedures for processing a claim, which you will learn before purchasing 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.

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Final Thought

International health insurance is available to anyone living or traveling outside their home country. Protect yourself and your family by buying international health insurance now. Remember that this type of coverage will only cover you outside your home country, so do not rely on it as your only form of protection. Before buying international health insurance, consider the following benefits.