If you plan on moving abroad for an extended amount of time, one of the most important decisions you will have to make before leaving is which international health insurance policy is the right one for you and your family. When evaluating the many choices and options, we have put together 7 tips to help you choose the best international health insurance plan to meet your needs.
1. Network of doctors and hospitals
When choosing an international health insurance plan, one of the most important things you need to evaluate is the size of the global network of doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers that participate with the insurance company and plan you select. This is important to ensure you have enough doctors and hospitals in the specific area you will be living in and to ensure you have access to specialists if the need arises. Some providers, such as the Cigna Global plan we offer, has one of the best global medical networks in the world – in our opinion. It is key to choose a plan with a large medical network.
Ensure the plan you choose will cover any critical pre-existing conditions you may have and need care for. In many cases, insurance companies will not cover pre-existing conditions or may charge you extra to cover them. Unfortunately, you may also be declined as international medical plans are offshore plans to cover expats and as such require medical underwriting. Make sure you understand what the plan you choose covers and what it does not so you are not surprised by unexpected health care costs. Also do not change from one global health plan to another unless you are sure that the new plan will cover any ongoing treatment or medical condition.
3. Out-Of-Pocket Costs
When selecting a plan, there will almost always be some level of out-of-pocket costs in the form of deductibles, copays, and coinsurance. Generally, a more comprehensive plan with higher premiums will have lower out-of-pocket costs. If you have very few health issues, you may want to choose a plan with lower premiums and higher out-of-pocket costs. Deductibles and coinsurance are great ways to reduce your premiums, but sometimes the impact is not that great.
4. In-Patient Care for Expat Healthcare
Different plans have different levels of coverage when it comes to in-patient care. For example, if having a private room is important to you, select a plan that guarantees you one. In addition to what is included in the base policy, you may be able to add riders that can increase or modify your coverage according to your wants and needs.
5. Ambulance or Evacuation Costs
When evaluating your plan options, this is an area that plans can be different, and it is worth checking out what the differences in coverage and out-of-pocket costs are from one plan to another. An ambulance ride or a medical evacuation from one country to another can be expensive, so choose a plan with a benefit level you are comfortable with. If you are living in a country where medical care is substandard, make sure the global health plan includes medical evacuation coverage & you are going to be covered for treatment in the country that you are evacuated to.
Note that evacuations have be approved and coordinated by the insurer. Generally, you will be transported to the city or country with the best possible medical care for your unique medical needs that may not be met in your existing location. You are not able to choose where you will be evacuated.
6. Insurer Reputation and Service
This can be a tricky thing for most expatriates to flesh out when moving abroad, so it makes sense to ask us about our opinion on a particular global health provider. We try to provide several choices of providers and insurers to expatriates, but some are more well known, secure and capable than others. In general, the more you pay the better the coverage, like most things in life. We prefer you choose an excellent plan as it leads to higher satisfaction and fewer problems for us as your agent. Note that when you purchase a global health plan via our site, there is no cost to you as the customer and all claims and payments are direct to the insurance provider. We are there to assist you throughout your international health insurance journey as your independent advocate.
7. Premiums for Global Healthcare
Plan premiums for international health insurance can vary widely. The premiums you pay are dependent on the level of coverage you choose and can also be impacted by your health. Lower premium plans often have fewer benefits and higher out-of-pocket costs, while more expensive premium plans have more comprehensive coverage and lower out-of-pocket costs. In addition to your base plan’s cost, you may incur additional costs if you add riders to expand your coverage to include dental, vision, or other benefits. If you have pre-existing medical conditions, that can also increase your premiums. This is called medical underwriting; when you apply for a policy, you will be asked questions about your health history, age, and more, all of which impact your premiums.
We always recommend getting the best possible international health coverage that you can afford when living abroad. You may be healthy now, but that can change in an instant and global medical plans are there as an important safety net for international citizens and expatriates. Note that this article is geared to individual plans, but is also relevant to global benefit plans that provide international health insurance for expatriate employers. Contact us to learn more.