When you are moving abroad as an expat or already a global citizen, you know how important having high-quality global health insurance for you and your family members. We explained why people buy international health insurance in a previous article, but a common question we hear from people who contact us or request a quote for international health insurance is who buys international health insurance coverage.
Who needs international health insurance coverage?
We thought we would address this question as it will help future and current expatriates and global nomads alike understand the sorts of people who not only need international health coverage, but who actually buy global medical insurance. This will primarily focus on individual private medical insurance (IPMI) coverage. OK, here we go, who buys international health insurance coverage?
1. Globally Mobile Individuals & Expats
With the world slowly shrinking, we have found that more and more people are becoming expatriates or essentially globally mobile individuals. An expatriate for our purposes of looking at international health insurance could be summed up as someone residing outside their country of citizenship for more than 6 months of the year. Most global medical insurance plans will only cover expatriates who can provide an address abroad and won’t be spending more than 180 days in their home country.
This is because they can’t cover local nationals, but the global health policy will generally cover the expat back in their home country up to that 180 limits. If you are an American expat, most international health policies will allow you 30 to 60 days of emergency coverage in the USA, but if you add the USA coverage option, you should be allowed up to that half-year limit per policy year.
2. Retirees Living Abroad
Another very common person who buys international health insurance is offshore retirees. A common dream for future retired couples and individuals is to live abroad in a foreign land with beautiful beaches, a mild climate and maybe a different culture. They may also move abroad to be with children who have moved overseas. As you know, as we age our health will decline, so an international health plan that covers retired expats is even more important.
Many global medical plans will have an age limit for entry, but still cover the retired expat for life. Other providers, such as the Cigna plan we offer online, will allow retired expats of any age to apply for a global health plan in order to access health care abroad. Note that individual expat health plans are medically underwritten and not all pre-existing conditions can be covered – in fact, you may have medical loading, exclusion or you could be declined.
3. Long-Term Travelers
Another common adventure for those who need health insurance is long-term travelers who plan to travel from one country to another for a year or more. Most travel insurance policies will only cover emergency care and only up to 1 or maybe 2 years. We recommend that anyone traveling abroad for a year or more should definitely consider an international health insurance policy that will cover emergency and non-emergency medical care – including out-patient, wellness and maybe even vision and dental care.
For Canadian expats, their provincial universal health plan may not cover them back in Canada if they are outside of the country for more than 6 or 12 months. Canadian travel insurance expat plans are primarily designed to patch them up and return them to Canada for treatment, so a global health plan is critical if they are abroad for a long time.
4. Some Local Nationals
As a rule, local nationals do not require health insurance and are not eligible for most plans offered by expat insurers, but there are some countries where there is little domestic coverage available or where medical treatment is lacking and an “expat health plan” may be available for purchase. But note that these are offshore policies and they may not be allowed to be purchased by a local national (a citizen living in their home country). The Allianz plan we offer can sometimes be purchased by local nationals in some country – but not in the USA, Canada, UAE and several other nations.
5. Group Leavers
We work with many international organizations to design, implement and service global benefit plans that include international health insurance for their expatriate staff. It is pretty much vital for any company that wants to meet it’s duty of care that they provide global medical coverage on a group basis.
But what happens when an expat employee leaves the employment and still resides as an expatriate? Most expat health policies are not transferrable to an individual policy, but we have been able to secure excellent individual health insurance for expatriates when they have left employment abroad, including when they retire. Note again that a new international health policy will be subject to medical evidence.
6. International Students
Are you planning to study abroad at an international university? Many universities abroad will provide no local or international coverage for their foreign students or the coverage that is provided may be sub-standard and only provide access to medical care in the destination country. We often get calls from parents who want a global health insurance plan that will cover their international students both globally and may not take the plans offered by the overseas university.
7. Digital Nomads
With the recent and ongoing pandemic, many are choosing to work abroad as digital nomads as long as the employer allows it and they can find a destination with fast internet. In most cases, digital nomads will be responsible for securing international health insurance as the local destination may have little or no coverage available or they may not be eligible.
8. Expat Employers
Somewhat related to group leavers, many multinational employers will have just one or two expat employees posted abroad and this may not be enough to secure an international group insurance policy, so they are left scrambling for an individual international health plan. We have worked with many international employers in securing adequate global medical coverage for the employee, dependents while meeting their important duty of care. We can also often source international life and disability coverage as well.
Next Steps for Buying International Health Insurance
Note that you may or may not fit into one of the above 8 categories, but if you are eligible for international health insurance, the next step is to
- Examine your global medical coverage requirements
- Talk to an international health insurance expert (Contact us)
- Obtain an international health insurance quote online or request a custom quote
- Apply for the global health plan that meets your requirements
- Agree to the terms provided if you are approved
- Pay the premiums & make sure you update your residence and payment information when they change
Buying international life insurance is necessary when you are living abroad as an expat, digital nomad, retired expat or expat employee. Talk to us any time if you have questions, but we also finally suggest that you download our international health insurance guide that is chock-full of great information and tips on international health insurance.