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Covering Your Health Abroad: The Importance of Overseas Health Insurance

It is essential for expatriates to get health insurance when living overseas because there may be laws that require it in their new country. Expats won’t be able to acquire a visa without it, and it can save them thousands of dollars if an unexpected health condition arises.

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Are you getting ready to move overseas and aren’t sure if you need to get health insurance? Are you a global traveler or nomad who isn’t sure why it would benefit you to get overseas medical insurance?

This article is designed for you! Our team at Pacific Prime has gathered 10 reasons why it is essential for expats living overseas to have health coverage for themselves and their dependents.

It is crucial for all worldwide travelers to know what international health insurance is so you can make the best-informed decision for your needs. Pacific Prime is a broker with over 20 years of global experience, and we are here to help!

In this post, we will introduce each reason why insurance is important, and we’ll explain the difference between health insurance and travel insurance.

If you develop some questions as you read along, please reach out to our insurance experts. They will be happy to offer you experienced advice without requiring any commitment on your part.

10 Reasons Why Health Insurance Overseas is Important

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Here are 10 reasons why it is important for expats, long-term travelers, nomads, and overseas employees to have international health insurance:

  1. Often Health Insurance is Required by Local Laws
  2. Financial Coverage for Quality Healthcare Services
  3. Overseas Insurance Covers Medical Problems and Illnesses
  4. Overseas Health Insurance Offers Extra Security
  5. There are Policies Designed for Different Needs
  6. U.S. Health Insurance Doesn’t Cover Overseas
  7. Expats Need Coverage for Preventative Care
  8. Some Visas Require Proof of Health Insurance
  9. Wise to have Insurance Before a Health Condition Comes
  10. Maternity Coverage Often Has Waiting Periods

The next 10 sections will discuss each of these reasons in greater detail. As you read and think of questions you have, reach out to our insurance experts to learn more about your international health insurance options.

1. Often Health Insurance is Required by Local Laws

It is very common for your country of residence to have a local law that requires all residents, including expats, to have health insurance. To enter the country and remain a resident there, you may need to show proof of health insurance through a local or international provider.

These requirements are different for every country, so it is essential you do your research to figure out if your country has any such law. Most countries will require an insurance policy to cover the duration of your stay.

One such example is Dubai, UAE, which requires all residents to meet their minimum requirements for medical insurance. There are consequences if you don’t follow Dubai’s law, and similar consequences exist in other countries.

2. Financial Coverage for Quality Healthcare Services

Singapore Merlion At Orchard Lane

Having financial coverage for healthcare services overseas can save expats a lot of money. The financial burden of having to pay for every expense for every medical visit can really add up, which is why securing at minimum a basic health insurance plan can keep your budget afloat.

This is perhaps the most obvious reason why it is important for individuals and families living overseas to have health coverage. Not only can it save the average insured individual thousands of dollars a year, it could save you hundreds of thousands of dollars if a true medical emergency were to occur.

3. Overseas Insurance Covers Medical Problems and Illnesses

Out-of-pocket fees for a medical problem or illness can be staggering. Having health insurance while overseas if you have a health condition is essential. Coverage for a pre-existing health condition, or chronic illness can cover:

  • Specialist visits
  • Lab tests
  • Prescription medications
  • Emergency medical evacuation
  • Physical therapy
  • Chiropractor sessions
  • Surgeries
  • And more!

4. Health Providers Offers Extra Security While Overseas

Having health insurance established before moving overseas can grant expats extra security. Your provider can be part of the community that you turn to in heightened moments of duress when medical services are needed. Without this support, it can be difficult to manage the local healthcare system.

Foreigners may not:

  • Be able to speak to local providers in their native language
  • Know the emergency contact numbers for doctors and hospitals
  • Be given the same care or services offered to locals
  • Understand the local process for paying medical bills

Having a health insurance provider who can hold your hand in each of these situations can be a lifesaver as they teach you how to navigate your country-specific protocols and expectations.

5. There are Policies Designed for Different Needs

Venice Grand Canal And Rialto Bridge, Italy

Health insurance policies for overseas are designed for a variety of needs, such as studying, working, volunteering, touring, retiring, and more. It is wise to select an insurance plan that caters to the reason you are moving abroad, how long you will be there, and what you will do while there.

Finding the right policy for your needs can make sure you are covered for the activities you will be exposed to without needing to pay for more than you need. A broker like Pacific Prime can assist you in finding the right policy for you.

6. U.S. Health Insurance Doesn’t Cover Overseas

Because U.S. health insurance typically does not provide any coverage overseas, it is important for expats to secure a health plan designed for international living. In fact, the U.S. government highly recommends it. Medicare also does not work overseas.

Some options instead would be global health insurance, international health insurance, or expat health insurance.

You can read more about the specific limitations of U.S. Medicare insurance abroad in this blog post.

7. Expats Need Coverage for Preventative Care

Long-term expats don’t only need health insurance for medical emergencies but also for preventative well-check visits and services. Having financial coverage for these medical expenses can save you money from paying out-of-pocket for all your annual doctor visits.

Outpatient services that can be covered by health insurance overseas include:

  • Doctor and specialist consultations
  • Prescription medications
  • Labs and testing
  • Maternity care
  • Outpatient treatments
  • Routine check-ups
  • Dental and vision care
  • Therapies
  • And more!

8. Some Visas Require Proof of Health Insurance

There are countries that will not issue long-term visas to expats who don’t have proof of local health insurance. If this is the case for the country you will be moving to, you will need to secure a health insurance policy that lasts for the full length of time you will be living in that country.

You will then need to send in insurance documentation with your visa application to prove you will abide by that local law.

One such country that has this rule is Thailand, and you can read this blog post to learn more about the mandatory health insurance for expats in Thailand.

9. Wise to have Insurance Before a Health Condition Comes

It is wise to secure medical insurance before you have a serious health condition because then the condition is much more likely to be covered by your insurance. Oftentimes, chronic health conditions that exist before your policy begins will either not be covered or have many exclusions.

As a result of this, it is in expats’ best interests to set up an international health insurance plan while they are still healthy.

10. Maternity Coverage Often Has Waiting Periods

Maternity insurance for expats living overseas has an average waiting period of 10-24 months. This means that your pregnancy expenses will not have coverage until after you have been paying premiums for an insurance plan for the full duration of the waiting period.

It is important for expats and travelers who think they may like to have a child in the future to secure a health insurance plan 1 – 2 years prior to trying to get pregnant. If you become pregnant before the waiting period has ended, you will not have coverage until it has passed.

International Health Insurance vs. Travel Insurance

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International health insurance is designed to cover inpatient and outpatient fees long-term, typically for a year or longer. Travel insurance is designed to cover travel expenses and emergency medical fees only for short trips or trips less than a year in length.

If you do not want to pay for benefits such as annual doctor visits and inpatient treatments not considered emergencies, you are probably looking for short-term medical insurance or travel insurance.

You can read our series of blog posts about travel insurance here.

Travel Insurance Covers Unexpected Travel Issues

Travel insurance is designed to cover unexpected travel complications such as delayed transportation, lost, stolen, or damaged luggage, canceled or interrupted trips, medical emergencies, and medical evacuation and repatriation. Having travel insurance can save you a lot of money.

If you want to see a deep dive into the travel insurance plans offered by the 5 best travel insurance companies, check these out:

  • April International: They insure travelers and expats in 180 different companies.
  • Vumi Travel VIP: They insure travelers from across the globe, including the Americas, Europe, Middle East/Asia, Africa, and Oceania.
  • IMG GlobeHopper: They insure travelers all across Europe and worldwide with options to include or exclude the U.S. and Canada.
  • GeoBlue: They offer coverage across the globe and have the largest direct billing network of any travel insurance provider.
  • MSH International: They offer travelers coverage worldwide with an option to include or exclude the United States.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Should I get overseas health insurance?

If you get overseas health insurance, you could save yourself hundreds of thousands of dollars if a serious medical condition were to arise while abroad. Without insurance, you would be expected to pay every dollar yourself. This decision is your own, but having coverage is often the wise choice.

What exactly is overseas health insurance?

Overseas health insurance refers to health insurance policies designed to provide medical coverage for travelers living outside their native country. These insurance plans have partnerships with local health providers in your country of residence who agree to let the insurer cover your expenses.

How does medical insurance work when you’re overseas?

Individuals and families living overseas need to get a medical insurance plan designed to cover them outside their country of origin. This means getting an international health insurance plan that offers inpatient and outpatient benefits for expats. U.S. health insurance plans don’t work overseas.


We have now looked at 10 of the reasons it is essential for expats and long-term global travelers to secure health insurance overseas. We’ve also explained the difference between health insurance abroad and travel insurance.

If you found value in this article, you should check out our articles: Living Abroad? Here’s What You Need to Know About Health Insurance and Navigating the World of Health Insurance in the Philippines.

To explore potential health insurance quotes online, use our free insurance quote generator. It’s a resource that can compare health insurance plans from dozens of insurance providers side by side. You can even save your favorite quotes for later reference!

If you have any questions, please fill out our contact form, and our insurance experts will get back to you shortly.

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