International Health Insurance
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International Health Insurance Buyer's Guide
Remember, you can use the links on the left side of this page to get immediate quotes, download brochures and apply directly online.
Buying international health insurance can be particularly confusing if you come from a country where there is no health insurance or there is national health insurance. Therefore, concepts like deductibles, co-pays, coinsurance, etc. have no meaning.
It is very important that you familiarize yourself with a few basic terms. Without this knowledge, the provided information for each plan will have no meaning.
If you have U.S. health insurance, it will cover you for emergencies outside of the U.S. borders if you are on a short trip. But, if you are working, studying or living abroad, they will not cover you at all. You will need to get an international health insurance plan.
If you are leaving the country for a brief period of time for vacation travel, you should still use one of our inexpensive travel insurance plans.
If you are a full time student enrolled in an educational or research program in the United States, or a U.S. citizen traveling abroad for educational opportunities, you can obtain international student health insurance.
The rates for these plans are relatively low and you can cover your spouse and children. You must have the proper visa and/or documentation to prove that you are indeed a student or researcher.
Travel insurance covers a lot of different types of plans. Some provide trip interruption, lost baggage and air ambulance service to fly you home in the event of a serious medical issue. Others provide for temporary health care while you are traveling.
Many health insurance plans will not cover you outside of your home country. In the United States, Medicare does not provide for any services outside of the U.S. borders.
We recommend that you obtain some type of travel health insurance plan when leaving the United States. They are not very expensive and will give you peace of mind in the event that anything happens.
II. International Health Insurance – Common Terms
This is the painful part. I need to get you familiar with a few common health insurance terms so you can use the web site. I promise you that I will make this as simple as possible.
Deductible – the deductible is what you must pay before the health insurance starts to pay for your expenses. If I told you that the plan has a $1,000 deductible and your hospital bill was $10,000, you would be responsible for the first $1,000 of the bill.
Most often, there is only one deductible per year. You usually do not have to meet a deductible each time you are hospitalized in the same year. Although, we have noticed that some international health insurance plans are listing their benefits with a deductible for each illness or accident.
Coinsurance – coinsurance is the sharing of expenses with the insurance company. It is a payment that comes after the deductible is met. I think an illustration will explain it better.
Let us say that you have a health insurance plan where the deductible is $1,000 and the coinsurance is 80/20 of the next $10,000. If your hospital bill was $30,000, here is how it would get paid:
1. The first $1,000 is your deductible so you pay the first $1,000. Now there is $29,000 left on the bill.
2. The next $10,000 is 80/20. This means the insurance company pays 80% or $8,000 and you pay 20% or $2,000. At this point, you have paid the $1,000 deductible, $2,000 for coinsurance. The insurance company has paid $8,000 of coinsurance. The total paid on the $30,000 hospital bill is $11,000 of which you have paid out $3,000.
3. There is $19,000 left on the bill to pay. The insurance company will pick up this expense.
Co-pays – Simply stated, if you have a $30 co-pay for physician office visits, you will pay only $30 for that visit. Generally, you do not have to meet any deductible at all to use the co-pay feature. Not all international health insurance plans have co-pays. But, some of the better plans that mimic full major medical plans do.
PPO Networks – a PPO network is a large group of medical providers that have signed a contract that limits that amount they charge. It is an agreement that they will be paid according to this pre-agreed upon schedule.
An office visit that might normally be $100, could be reduced to the contracted rate of $55. Not all international plans use PPO networks. I have found that the better companies provide two networks; one for use in the United States and another for use internationally. The availability of physicians and hospitals in a network will make it a lot easier for you to use your insurance and cut your expenses for all procedures.
There are third-party products that will permit you to receive a discount without an insurance plan.
III. International Health Insurance Plan Types
There are essentially two different types of international health insurance plans. I am referring to actual health insurance and not special plans for travelers.
An indemnity plans pay out according to a fixed schedule. There is a fixed daily benefit for hospital stays and a fixed amount per doctor visit.
In most instances, indemnity plans are less expensive than full major medical types of health insurance. They are also easier to obtain if you have a pre-existing health condition. But, you must always remember that they do have limited coverage. In the event of a serious or extended illness, the daily benefit allowance will fall short of the actual expenses.
Generally speaking, I do not like indemnity plans. We only recommend it when a pre-existing medical condition prevents you from getting a better type of plan.
A major medical plan is similar to most other types of health insurance that is offered in the United States and elsewhere.
With this type of plan there is a deductible and coinsurance (two terms we just explained) and then the coverage can extend to up to $5 million dollars.
There is usually (but not always) additional coverage for office visits, physicals, testing and prescriptions.
The catch is, major medical plans have questions regarding pre-existing conditions. It is possible that some of you will not qualify.
If you can afford it and do not have any serious medical issues that will prevent you from obtaining health insurance, a major medical type plan is the best type to have.