One of the most challenging parts of living in a foreign country is navigating the healthcare system and whether it caters to expats. In most cases, the insurance policy you have at home won’t cover when you leave your country, so international health insurance is required. This is why it is essential to know how international health insurance works.
International health insurance— as the name suggests— is designed to cover your medical needs while you are in a foreign country. So, this type of insurance is the same as traditional health insurance, except it covers your medical cost when you are living abroad.
Here is an overview of how international health insurance works:
- You move abroad.
- You purchase international health insurance.
- You require medical attention while abroad.
- You collect the required documents.
- You pay for the medical costs in a foreign country.
1. You Plan to Move Abroad
Before buying your international insurance policy, make sure that you actually need one. For example, if you stay in a foreign country only temporarily, i.e., less than a month, you might consider buying only travel insurance that will cover any medical emergencies during your stay. On the other hand, if you plan to live in a foreign country long-term, i.e., for work or family purposes, you should buy international health insurance. Learn more about the differences between travel insurance and international health insurance.
So, usually, the following categories require international health insurance:
- Retired expats.
- Digital nomads.
- Foreign employees.
2. You Purchase International Health Insurance
Even though you are not legally obligated to buy international health insurance, you are highly advised to do this before moving abroad. This way, you will know that whatever injuries, illnesses, or emergency interventions you have are covered by your provider, no matter where you are.
Here is a brief summary of how you can purchase international health insurance:
- Find an international insurance provider. You can look for such a provider in your home country or refer to online companies that offer insurance policies specifically for global coverage.
- Check the insurance policies. Most providers will provide a basic insurance policy and a more comprehensive policy. The basic plan usually covers only emergency cases, while the comprehensive policy covers anything, from emergencies to dental and eyewear expenses.
- Buy your insurance plan. There are a few different ways how you can buy international insurance— the most common being:
- Directly— you can buy the insurance plan directly via the insurance company.
- Via an insurance agent— licensed insurance agent may be working for a specific company or several insurance companies and offer you the plans their clients have available.
- Via an insurance broker— the insurance broker will cater to your needs as a client and provide you with several options for your international health insurance policy.
- Retrieve your ID card. After you buy your international health insurance, your provider will equip you with an ID card containing your information and insurance details. You will need to present this card while visiting a healthcare center in a foreign country.
3. You Require Medical Attention While Abroad
Let’s say, while you are abroad, you suffer an injury, get sick, or need a medical procedure. Whatever the reason, you can seek medical attention at your local health center. However, at these public health centers, you may experience longer waiting times and difficulty accessing an English-speaking doctor. With your international health insurance, on the other hand, you can access private healthcare facilities thus eliminating waiting times.
In cases where your condition may not be treatable abroad, you will be evacuated to your home country. Either way, your international health insurance will cover these expenses if you purchase a reparation and evacuation coverage plan.
4. You Collect the Required Documents
After you get treated at the medical center abroad, you must collect a set of documents so you can make an insurance claim. This includes the bills and receipts from the hospital, prescription notes (including your info, your doctor’s name, the pharmacy details, etc.), the medical procedures you undertook, and any other information required by your insurance provider.
Please save a copy of every document if you need to re-send them to your insurance provider. If you’re not sure what documents your insurance company needs, contact your provider since they offer a 24/7 help hotline and will be able to assist you.
5. You Use Your International Health Insurance to Cover Medical Costs
There are two ways in which your international insurance provider will pay for your medical costs while abroad:
- Directly. Your insurance provider will pay the bill directly to the hospital if you are in the same provider network. You still need to fill out the insurance claim form. The hospital or medical center where you received treatment can bill the insurance company directly based on your insurance ID.
- Via an insurance claim. If your bill is not paid directly, you must pay the expenses yourself and file an insurance claim. You need every detailed invoice and receipt issued by the hospital, your doctor, and your pharmacy to make an insurance claim. You will need to attach these documents to your insurance claim form and send them to your provider. Most providers will reimburse 80% of expenses, depending on your insurance plan.
Note: When filing an insurance claim, you need to fill out an insurance claim form for every medical condition treated.
Is International Health Insurance Mandatory?
International health insurance is not mandatory, but most expats prefer global insurance because it offers peace of mind. So, if you have international health insurance, you won’t have to worry about medical issues while in a foreign country.
Pros of Having International Health Insurance
One of the most significant advantages of having international health insurance is that it covers you globally, i.e., wherever you are. In addition, international health insurance allows you access to English-speaking doctors in countries where English is not spoken, private healthcare— including private health facilities—and immediate care without waiting times. Plus, with international health insurance, you lower the costs of any medical expenses you would otherwise be required to pay out of pocket.
How Much Does International Health Insurance Cost?
International health insurance can cost you anywhere from $200 to $900 per month— with an average of $500. However, your international health insurance can vary depending on your age, location, pre-existing conditions, and duration. To help you choose the best affordable international health insurance plan, you can head on to Insubuy or International Citizens Insurance and compare a list of insurance policies.