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International Health Insurance

Is international health insurance the right choice for you? What factors should you consider when choosing a company and policy? How can you tailor your plan to fit the specific needs of you and your family? And most importantly: don’t forget to read the fine print!
With international health insurance, you can rest assured that you are receiving the best possible care.

Reasons to Get International Health Insurance

If you will be moving around a lot from assignment to assignment, getting an international health insurance plan could save you from having to switch providers with each new country. This will give you the luxury of building up a relationship with one provider who knows you and your medical history. If you will have a gap between your departure date and when you can obtain public or private local health insurance, then a short-term international health insurance policy might be the right option for you.

Another reason many expats choose to purchase international health insurance is because the quality of medical care offered in the country they are moving to is substandard. Private health insurance will guarantee you access to the best hospitals and doctors in the country, or at the nearest excellent medical care center outside of your host country.

Another possible advantage of international health insurance is that premiums are often calculated based on age, medical history and area of cover, not on your previous claims history. Many expats are also more comfortable with an international health insurance company because they offer informational material and call center support in English or another familiar language.

Choosing an International Health Insurance Provider

If you have decided that international health insurance is the right option for you, how should you go about choosing a provider? One question to ask yourself is whether or not a provider has offices in your country of residence or connections with local businesses and partners. Many providers claim to have an extensive global network of hospitals and doctors with whom they cooperate, but especially if you are moving to a rural or remote area, you should check in advance if you will have easy access to healthcare there.

Most international health insurance providers offer free quotes on their websites. Take advantage of these offers to shop around and compare. You might also consider using the services of a health insurance agent or broker. As they don’t work directly for the health insurance companies, they should be able to provide you with impartial information about the different options available to you.

Customizing Your Plan

There are many different factors to consider when choosing the health insurance plan that fits your specific needs. First, you should consider your area of cover. International health insurance providers split the world into various areas of cover. There can be up to eight regions, but many plans just differentiate between global coverage and global coverage excluding the US, due to the fact that medical care in the US is the most expensive in the world. If you do have a medical emergency in a country outside of your area of cover, however, the services you receive there will usually, but not always, be included.

After you have decided on your area of coverage, you will probably have various tariff levels to choose from. When making this decision, you need to ask yourself if you’d rather have lower premiums or higher quality of care. You will also often have the option of paying a higher deductible in exchange for a lower monthly premium. In addition, you need to decide the maximum amount of cover you would like to have. A good rule of thumb is to have cover of up to €1.5 million for European destinations, and an even higher amount for non-European ones.

In addition to your core plan, most international health insurance companies have different benefits that you can add to individualize your plan to meet your personal needs. These can include the following areas of cover:

  • dental
  • vision
  • maternity
  • newborn
  • wellness check-ups, e.g. diagnostic tests, vaccinations, specialist fees
  • in-patient
  • out-patient
  • hospitalization
  • psychiatric care
  • prescription medicines
  • cancer
  • emergency medical evacuation (to the nearest quality medical center)
  • medical repatriation (back to your native country)

Advantages of International Health Insurance

If you decide to purchase private health insurance in addition to or instead of public health insurance in your host country, what advantages are there to choosing a plan with an international company? For one, an international health insurance provider has experience dealing with expat situations, and can provide expert advice and support. Many have medical help centers, which are open 24/7 and employ multilingual staff, often including medical professionals, to whom you can speak if you have questions about the care you are receiving in your host country.

Through the large networks international insurance companies have built worldwide, they can often function as intermediaries between the local healthcare facilities and you, recommend suitable medical centers, make appointments, and take care of any administrative arrangements and billing. They may even be able to obtain medicines for you that are not available in your host country.

Read the Fine Print!

As with all insurance plans, it is important to read the fine print of your policy, to make sure you know in advance what will and won’t be covered. Some questions to keep in mind include:

  • Will you need to pay upfront for medical care and then be reimbursed afterwards, or will your health insurance company pay the medical institution directly?
  • If you or your spouse has a baby while you are abroad, will your newborn automatically be covered by your health insurance plan? Would an elective C-section be covered?
  • If you are injured while participating in extreme sports while you are abroad, will these be covered? You may be surprised by what some health insurance companies classify as “extreme sports”.
  • What is the limit on cover for chronic conditions?