how does international health insurance work

Learn how international health insurance works for expats

There’s often some confusion about when it comes to buying international health insurance. This is usually because many people do not know how international health insurance works. There are also lots of insurance jargon and definitions, as you would expect with any insurance plan. However, global medical coverage is vital if you are moving abroad or you have already made the jump overseas. Some global nomads around the world do not have health insurance as they can’t be bothered, don’t know how it works, or, most importantly, don’t know how to get the best coverage.
You don’t have to be an expat insurance expert or become one. It is simply a good idea that when shopping for global health insurance, that you become an informed customer with at least a basic understanding of the coverage options and how the policies work.
In this article, we will explore how does international health insurance work and we hope that it will make it easier for you to plan your life abroad. We will primarily be describing individual global health plans, but many of the points noted below also relate to corporate plans.

Why do you need international health insurance?

Many expats make the mistake of not getting global health coverage when moving abroad. In the case of the pandemic, many expats, digital nomads, and global citizens are stuck in certain countries unable to return home immediately. If you did not have any health coverage at this time, it would be challenging to get any basic treatments on your own.

International health insurance gives you continuous coverage when relocating from one country to another. Different insurance providers have their extensive network of medical professionals and hospitals with around the clock assistance. Having global health insurance coverage covers the high cost of medical treatments based on international facilities. This enables you to protect your financial wealth and avoid any financial loss. It also means you do not have to pay out of pocket for any immediate hospitalization.
What is International Health Insurance? 

At its core, international health insurance is very similar to private health insurance that you might find in the USA or in Asia where there are no government health programs underwriting the claims and coverage. For local citizens living in countries such as Canada, residents who are eligible can buy extended health insurance, but it relies on you having provincial government universal coverage. But international health insurance is designed to cover an expatriate who is locally in his/her destination country, but also globally – including seeking medical care back home or regionally. So, essentially you are buying private global health insurance – most likely because you are not eligible for local health insurance, local health services are deficient and you simply need global coverage.

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What’s included in global healthcare coverage?

In typical international health insurance, there are two types of coverage:

Standard
  1. In-patient hospital coverage – An insured person is staying in a hospital bed for one or more nights.
  2. Day-patient care – As an insured person, you stay in a hospital but do not need to stay overnight.
  3. Emergency treatment – Getting treatments for accidents.
  4. Extensive cancer coverage
  5. Diagnosis and Treatment – An insured person have access to various treatments, including surgery, scans, radiotherapy, etc.
Comprehensive
  1. Out-patient care – Receiving medical treatment at a healthcare facility but not admitted to a hospital bed.
  2. International medical evacuation & repatriation – Provides coverage for transportation costs to the nearest medical facility if local treatment is unavailable. Note that the decision to evacuate is always subject to insurer approval first.
  3. Dental & Vision – Covers routine eye examination, spectacles, and lenses. It also covers preventive and routine dental treatments.
  4. Maternity coverage – Parent and baby care during maternity after a 12 month waiting period.

Most plans will include medical evacuation care or at least allow you to buy it as an optional benefit.

How does international health insurance work

So, how does international health insurance work?

International health insurance is designed for expats who are looking for long term coverage. For example, when you move abroad and live in Peru, its local insurance plan is probably not suitable for an expat. Most likely the insurance coverage from your home country will not cover you in your expat destination and travel insurance plans only cover emergencies and only up to one year. Not only is your domestic plan unsuitable for your current situation, but you will not have easy access to expensive foreign medical hospitals or get reimbursments for international health claims.
Do note that your local health insurance plans can cover you when you’re abroad on holiday or short business trips. However, it will not suffice is you’re moving, working, or studying abroad. For these reasons, one should opt for international health insurance coverage.
Global health insurance reduces financial risks, such as unexpected medical expenses. You have access to world-class treatments through your insurer’s extensive networks. Furthermore, you have the freedom to choose your preferred medical facilities and professionals. Having full coverage during a medical emergency reduces your stress.

Download An International Health Insurance Handbook to Learn More!

Perhaps the best way to learn more about how international health insurance works is to download our free global health insurance guide!

International Health Insurance Consumer Guide

What do you need to do next?

Now that you know how international health insurance work, you must wonder what will be your next steps.

The first step is to evaluate yourself in terms of health, geography, finances, and plans. Most global health insurance policies involve some medical underwriting, so a plan may or may not exclude your pre-existing medical condition. You may even be declined. You must provide details on your health conditions as this will impact your plan. Most insurance plans are worldwide, excluding the USA, so make sure you know your geographical area of coverage. You can always add coverage to the USA if you are planning to become an expat there, but this will involve medical underwriting. Before applying, know your budget for your coverage. Understanding your financial capabilities will allow you to determine how much coverage you may obtain. It’s also important to know your plans abroad. Are you planning to start a family when you move abroad or retiring overseas? Your coverage must suit your needs and treatments.

Get international health insurance quote

The second step is to select a suitable coverage. Insurance providers such as Cigna, IMG, Allianz, Geo Blue have different plans with unique coverage options. Your third step is to get a quote online and look at your options. Once you’re happy with it, you can submit your application.