When considering moving abroad for work, long-term travel, or if you are just a global nomad, there are many things to consider and plan for before making your move. One of the most important considerations is how to protect you and your loved ones as an expatriate should one of you become sick or sustain an injury. There are many different kinds of expat health insurance for many different scenarios, so it’s essential to choose the best policy for your situation to ensure you have the coverage you need from a reputable insurance company.
Let’s take a look at the top international health insurance options.
Not all countries have great local or free healthcare systems. For that reason, getting international health insurance is usually a wise choice. Additionally, having international health insurance means you can access a vast network of doctors and specialists – both in your destination country, back home, and regionally. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related costs, if you get diagnosed with COVID-19, more countries now require expats to show proof of international health insurance upon or before entry into the country.
Important things to consider when choosing international health insurance
When choosing an international health insurance policy, there are several things you will want to consider as an international citizen. The plan you choose will depend on the kind of coverage you need while you live as an expat; here are some of the basic things they should include:
- Adequate yearly benefit maximums
- Flexibility in plans and prices
- Wellness and emergency care
- Inpatient and out-patient hospital visits
- An extensive network of doctors and medical facilities
- Multilingual and 24/7 customer service
- Medical evacuation
We will discuss three insurance companies that offer comprehensive international health insurance plans for expats and global citizens.
Coverage Options for Future & Current Expatriates
When looking to purchase international health insurance, there is no one size fits all solution. The primary plan you choose and the optional supplemental benefits you may want to add will be determined by your individual health needs and the needs of your family. Let’s review some of the options and types of international health plans available to you when it comes to choices.
Basic international Health Insurance
Your international health insurance will cover things like inpatient care at a hospital or medical facility at its most basic level.
Most international health plans will allow you to add additional options that cover costs for general doctor visits, routine wellness care, out-patient and specialist services. From there, a host of other options are available so you can add to build a plan to meet your needs.
One of the top international health insurance options for expats is out-patient care. Out-patient care is for medical services that are done outside a hospital – such as going to a local clinic or doctor for a consultation, seeing specialists, x-rays and scans, medical tests, and prescription medication. Note that outpatient coverage is not inexpensive.
Many plans also allow you to add well services such as pap smears, doctors physicals, and screening tests. Part of maintaining your health while living abroad means that you should have a wellness plan for you and your families – such as seeing your doctor keep on top of your health and medical conditions.
A pre-existing condition is a medical illness or injury you have before enrolling in a health care plan. Pre-Existing conditions include things like diabetes, COPD, cancer, depression, pregnancy, sleep apnea, and many more. Plus, pre-Existing conditions tend to be chronic or long-term.
Pre-existing conditions are defined as conditions for which you had received treatment or diagnosis before you enrolled in a new health plan. For example, if you have a condition under control, hypertension controlled with medication does not mean it is not still considered pre-existing.
Most international health insurance policies exclude pre-existing conditions. However, in the last couple of years, some international insurance companies have changed their approach. They will look at your medical history. In some cases, they will cover those pre-existing conditions, usually with an additional cost. But keep in mind that international health plans are medically underwritten. Plus, they reserve the right not to cover your condition or decline to cover you.
Most basic international health insurance plans include cover for emergency dental treatment in an accident or injury that requires emergency dental services. However, it does not cover routine or other non-emergency dental care. If you want to have those routine dental services covered, you will have to buy an additional dental policy. It covers the costs of routine dental treatment (not cosmetic dental services). This includes things like routine checkups and cleanings, complex dental treatment, orthodontics, and more.
The services covered and level of cost-sharing (copays, co-insurance, deductibles) will be dependent on the specific policy you purchase. A general rule of thumb is, the more comprehensive the benefits and the lower the cost-sharing, the more expensive the policy.
If you think there is a chance you could become pregnant while overseas, you should have maternity coverage. The best way to ensure you have coverage for maternity care is to purchase a maternity cover plan. On the other hand, you can also ensure the base international health insurance plan you bought covers maternity care. The coverage in a stand-alone maternity plan and maternity coverage in a base health plan can vary significantly. Ensure the benefits you have will meet your needs. It should also provide the financial safety net needed if you or a loved one gets pregnant.
When purchasing Maternity Coverage, you should consider the following:
- Waiting periods – In most cases, 10-12 months, but it can be as long as 12 months before coverage is effective.
- Plan limits – Some maternity plans have a set coverage limit, with you responsible for any costs over that amount.
- Complications – Make sure you understand if your plan covers complications related to pregnancy and childbirth.
- Out of pocket costs – This includes copays, co-insurance, and deductibles, which can vary from plan to plan
Top International Health Insurance Plans Available For Expatriates via Expat Financial
Cigna International, a large and well-known global insurance company, offers excellent coverage, service, and lifetime coverage for expatriates. With a flexible plan design, you can include or exclude coverage in the USA. Cigna’s international health insurance policy is the most popular with our clients. More information and details on the Cigna plans can be found here.
If you are an expat residing in Europe, Africa, or Asia and want coverage from a very well known and respected European insurer, Allianz is the choice for you. The Allianz Worldwide Care plan is a high-quality plan and is available for those residing in select countries outside the USA & Canada. More information and details on the Allianz plans can be found here.
For American citizens residing abroad looking for an international health insurance plan from Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the most well-known and respected health insurance brand in the United States and worldwide, GeoBlue is the solution you are looking for. More information and details on the GeoBluez plans can be found here.
International Health Insurance Education & Guide
For expatriates who want to learn everything they need to know about international health coverage, we recommend you download our international health insurance guide: