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How International Health Insurance Works: Explained

For expats looking to relocate abroad, international health insurance protects your health and wellbeing through a series of comprehensive policies with wide areas of coverage. 

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From basics such as inpatient and outpatient care to additions such as dental and vision treatment, no expat healthcare need gets left behind.

In this Pacific Prime blog post, we’re going to be demystifying the essentials of international health insurance along with its benefits, coverage, and any financial or healthcare factors to consider before purchasing insurance plans to ensure your safety abroad.

What is International Health Insurance?

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International health insurance is a health insurance solution with a global area of coverage designed for people living or staying overseas. International health insurance helps cover costly medical bills in case of an emergency, illness, or injury. 

International health insurance can also tick the boxes on health coverage visa requirements from certain countries. Thanks to its connection to a global network of healthcare providers, you will have access to a wide array of medical services from most countries worldwide. 

With certain plans, you also have the option to customize by choosing the benefit you would like to have in your policy. These could include medical emergency coverage, inpatient/outpatient coverage, and 24-hour medical assistance.

International Health Insurance Cost

International health insurance will run you anywhere from USD$200-$900 per month, with an average of USD$500. Do keep in mind, though, that the following factors could contribute to your international health insurance costs:

  • Geographical Coverage: Some plans will be more expensive with certain areas included, such as the US, Singapore, and Hong Kong. 
  • Age: The majority of insurance companies have different prices for different age ranges. To put it simply, prices gradually increase in tandem with the client’s age. Many companies stop offering coverage at a certain point (usually ages 75-85).
  • Coverage amount: Let’s say you purchase a plan with a $500,000 maximum, this will cost less than a plan with a $2,000,000 maximum. This is your coverage amount on an annual basis or per claim (depending on the policy).
  • Items Covered: Basic health insurance plans with only more than medical treatment, hospitalization, and emergency services, will be less expensive compared to additional coverage for maternity, dental, or vision treatment.
  • People included in the plan: You will pay less for an individual medical insurance plan in comparison to plans that cover your family members.

That said, you should always try to choose the plan that will cover all your healthcare needs and not just the cheapest option available. This is because an inexpensive option, while affordable to you, may not actually cover all your unique healthcare needs

International Health Insurance Benefits

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International health insurance offers key benefits such as emergency coverage, inpatient and outpatient coverage, and medical evacuation. 

The following are the various benefits of international health insurance:

  • Inpatient & outpatient coverage
  • Medical emergency coverage
  • Medical evacuation & repatriation coverage
  • Direct billing
  • Worldwide coverage (with the option for including your home country)
  • 24-hour emergency assistance
  • Renewable policies
  • Provider choice flexibility

International Health Insurance Coverage Areas

International health insurance coverage includes a multitude of medical services, ranging from hospital stays to outpatient care, emergency evacuation, and prescription drugs. Other benefits, also included in most plans, are vision, dental, maternity, and preventive healthcare. 

For the additional areas of coverage, let’s say you are expecting a child. This is where maternity coverage comes in. On the other hand, if you have eye exams, contact lens and glasses fittings, basic dental expenses, or illness prevention, this is where vision and dental coverage can be useful. 

International health insurance covers individuals, families, and groups, all of which have their own set of benefits and premiums. Of course, individuals such as expats and travelers can purchase their international health insurance plans for themselves as part of their sole journey abroad. 

Individuals and Families

The most prominent examples of beneficiaries include students and business professionals or employees. International health insurance for families covers all family members, children, and seniors. Make sure to compare multiple plans to fit your family’s insurance needs before purchasing. 

Organizations and Businesses

For organizations looking to provide insurance benefits to groups of individuals, such as employees, this is where group international health insurance comes in. 

Once again, coverage for these plans may vary across providers.

Policies 

Group insurance policies use cost-sharing arrangements between employers and employees, allowing for the distribution of the financial burden resulting from health insurance premiums.

International Health Insurance Plan Considerations 

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The biggest factors to consider in choosing the right international health insurance plan for you and/or your family or business are geographical coverage, benefit coverage, and customer service and reviews. 

The following are some other factors to consider when choosing international health insurance plans:

  • Geographic coverage: Make sure the insurance plan covers the country where you and/or your family are located and where you’re headed. Also, check the plan’s network of healthcare providers to see if you can access quality healthcare.
  • Benefit coverage: Check to make sure whether or not the selected plan covers both inpatient, outpatient, and preventive care, along with emergency evacuation and prescription or other benefits you need such as dental or vision treatment expenses.
  • Reviews and customer service: Just like any other type of paid service, feedback and customer care matter when it comes to selecting insurance plans. You and/or your family would undoubtedly need help with claims, medical emergencies, or other issues, and this is where reviews and customer service come in.

Eligibility

The most common eligibility requirement to apply for international health insurance is living in a foreign country for at least three months. There are also underwriting requirements in which you’ll be asked to provide your medical history and any additional medical information in your application.

Certain insurance providers may not be able to sell policies to those who come from or enter a few select countries due to insurance laws forbidding insurers from providing coverage within the territory. 

There could also be age restrictions and limitations when applying for international health insurance plans. This may or may not be the case with the particular insurance provider you are in touch with, so make sure to consider your insurance plans and study their terms or conditions thoroughly.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Are there any differences between travel insurance and international health insurance?

Travel insurance is for short-term travel, while international health insurance is for long-term travel. More specifically, travel insurance is for short-term overseas travels. Meanwhile, international insurance is for long-term abroad stays such as relocation for work or educational purposes.

Are there certain countries where international health insurance costs more? 

The most expensive international health insurance coverage is in the US, which applies to both individual and family plans. Other countries with expensive international health insurance plans include Hong Kong, Singapore, and Dubai. 

How do pre-existing conditions affect my international health insurance application?

In some instances, pre-existing conditions could prohibit the provider from granting you the coverage you need. For solutions, you can choose a plan with a pre-existing condition exclusion, a moratorium, or coverage with loading.

Is there an underwriting process during the expat international health insurance application?

Medical underwriting, a review of your medical history, is required by international healthcare companies during the application process. This means if you are applying for an international family health insurance plan, every family member will need to provide their medical history. 

Conclusion

All in all, international health insurance offers financial protection for expats relocating abroad. Healthcare can make or break what could be a safe, productive overseas opportunity, and the last thing you want is illnesses and accidents ruining your experience. 

Whether you’re furthering your studies abroad, relocating with your family, or you’re working overseas, choose the right plan with the right coverage. That said, take good care of yourself, and we wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors overseas.

With over 20 years of experience, Pacific Prime is ready to help both locals and expats with the right insurance plans that match not only your budget but also your unique healthcare needs. Whether you need individual or family insurance plans, or you would like to compare quotes, we are ready to help you find the right insurance plan. 

Should you have any further questions or queries, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

Senior Content Creator at Pacific Prime
Serena Fung is a Senior Content Creator at Pacific Prime, a global insurance brokerage and employee specialist serving over 1.5 million clients in 15 offices across the world. With 2+ years of experience writing about the subject, she aims to demystify the world of insurance for readers with the latest updates, guides and articles on the blog.

Serena earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of British Columbia, Canada. As such, she is an avid advocate of mental health and is fascinated by all things psychology (especially if it’s cognitive psychology!).

Her previous work experience includes teaching toddlers to read, writing for a travel/wellness online magazine, and then a business news blog. These combined experiences give her the skills and insights she needs to explain complex ideas in a succinct way. Being the daughter of an immigrant and a traveler herself, she is passionate about educating expats and digital nomads on travel and international health insurance.
Serena Fung