Health-related mishaps occur anywhere you are in the world. However, while you may be in a particular country, that doesn’t mean you are eligible for government-sponsored health benefits. Your best protection is obtaining health insurance policy before travelling. This is especially true if you are a frequent traveler.
There are at least health insurance plans available for international travelers namely travel and expatriate insurance. These plans include basic medical events like illness or accident although the coverage typically varies depending on the length of stay on the host country. Travel insurance plans are intended for short stays or from 7 days to 1 year. The plan includes $1 million coverage for basic healthcare needs in addition to trip delays, interruptions and cancelations. Some plans such as Global Medical Insurance Plan cover physical therapy, prescription drug and maternity.
Expatriate insurance plans are for extended stays. It may include up to $5 million coverage and it is renewable on a yearly basis. An example of such plan is Patriot Executive, which is specifically designed for US and non-US executives whose age is below 76 years old.
There are several health insurance plans options available for international travelers regardless of the purpose of the travel. As such, you have to choose the right plan that will work best for your travel needs and circumstances. Insurance contracts manifest themselves as complex documents that cannot be comprehended in one reading. Insurance providers also uses jargons that can be quite confusing such as deductibles, coinsurances, exclusions, limits per, etc. Anyhow, here are some factors to consider when choosing your own health insurance policy.
First, make sure that the insurer’s operation is financially stable. The insurer must be able to meet its obligations in paying claims to the clients. Look for insurers with credit ratings between A and A- which are indicative of the financial strength of the insuring company. You should be wary of doing business with an insurer with a credit rating that is anything beyond such ratings.
Second, ensure that the insurance administrator has a proven track record. Your priority must be finding an insurance provider that offers worldwide protection especially when you need it the most. The insurer must be well-experienced in covering international travelers. This means that it can provide worldwide assistance regardless of your location 24/7 and even on holidays. Some indicators to help you decide are the total numbers of members and countries covered and medical professional’s availability.
To emphasize, another indicator is the availability of the customer service in different languages. So, third, make certain that the insurance company can provide worldwide assistance. In case of a medical situation in a rather foreign country, you may run the risk of obtaining sub-standard healthcare due to the language barrier. The situation may further exacerbate your condition and may even lead to other uncontrollable consequences like death. For instance, if you are in a remote community with no hospital, you might be required to be air lifted to take you to the nearest hospital. Thus, it is critical that someone may communicate with the locals on your behalf perhaps through a toll-free number.
Further, some insurance providers offer at least two health insurance plans in lieu with geographical coverage. These are plans that include and exclude US and Canada coverage. If your itinerary include anywhere in the US and Canada, you must obtain a plan that is inclusive of US and Canada coverage. However, be reminded that the cost of such is a bit higher because medical costs in the US specifically in North America tends to be higher than the rest of the US and the world.
If you are a bona fide US citizen yet you are currently living outside the US, some health insurance plans may not meet your medical needs. You might be subject to provider limitations and geographical exclusions. These circumstances might limit or eliminate the available coverage when you were not in the US even when you obtained your insurance policy from a US-based insurance provider.
For non-US citizens, you will still need an international health insurance policy as a supplement to your current coverage especially when you are not in your home country. International health insurance plans may give non-US citizens an access to medical services in the US although this still depends on the provider.
There are other points that you should consider when choosing a health insurance policy. First is the coverage continuation. There are preexisting conditions stipulated on insurance contracts. These conditions are medical conditions manifested even before the insurance policy is purchased. Make sure that the insurance policy renewable without additional medical underwriting when you renew. We may develop specific medical conditions as we age and the policy should cover them even before they develop. The continuity of the policy must be also available should you decide to relocate to another country. With this, you need not apply for another health insurance plan.
Second are the preexisting conditions. These conditions must be declared when applying for health insurance plans. Insuring companies may reject a claim on the basis of non-declaration of a preexisting condition. Oppositely, declared preexisting conditions may be accepted and covered by the insuring company fully or partially. These limitations must be clear to you before you sign the health insurance contract.
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