Affordable International Health Insurance for US Citizens Living Overseas

Looking for international health insurance for US citizens living abroad? My guide provides the information American expats need to choose global medical insurance. minutes

04/10/24

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About the author

Hi, I'm Marco Sison. I worked in finance for Fortune 50 companies before retiring early at 41 years old. I have been an expat for over 10 years, living in over 50 countries to show you the best ways to save, invest, and live in amazing countries outside the USA. I am a trusted resource on personal finance and overseas retirement for US News & World Reports, HuffPost, MSN Money, USA Today, ABC Network, Yahoo Finance, Association of MBAs, the iTunes documentary Seeking FIRE, and the Amazon Best-Seller- Abroad: Expats That Thrive.

QUICK SUMMARY- Medical Insurance For Americans Living Abroad

  • American healthcare is the most expensive in the world
  • US expats often find they pay 50% to 80% less for health insurance living abroad
  • Excluding the United States drastically cuts the health insurance costs for US citizens overseas
  • Other critical factors affecting price are: age, deductible, benefits coverage, max plan limits
  • Basic plans cover inpatient and emergency outpatient care. Preventative care is a more expensive add-on. 

Are you getting ready for a new adventure abroad? Maybe you're tired of your daily routine and prefer sipping rum cocktails on a beach in the Philippines or hiking the Camino through Spain. It's time to join the millions of US citizens living abroad.

"An estimated 9 million US citizens live overseas."

But life as a US expat isn't all sunshine and margaritas. If you are like most Americans moving abroad, you're a bit stressed about your healthcare coverage in a foreign country.

With confusing terminology and seemingly endless health insurance options researching the right benefit plan can get complicated. Yet, buying adequate coverage to protect your family's health and bank account from massive hospital bills can make starting your new life abroad daunting.

But don't worry, with over 8 years of experience as a US expat living overseas- I've got your back (and your front, and your sides, top, and your bottom... you get the point).

This article breaks down the details to consider when buying health insurance for US citizens living abroad, so you can spend less time worrying about the boring stuff and more time practicing your salsa moves in Colombia.

Best Health Insurance for US Expats Abroad

When US citizens move abroad, finding the best international health insurance is a huge challenge. Several options are available, each with different coverage and benefits. The 5 most popular plans for US expats are:

  1. Cigna Global Medical - Most popular expat policy.
  2. GeoBlue Global Expat Essential  - More expensive but comprehensive benefit plan
  3. IMG Global Medical Insurance - Cheapest insurance for Americans abroad
  4. William Russell - Great for US expats in SE Asia.
  5. Azimuth Meridian Insurance - Best for coverage in the United States.

All five plans offer world-class insurance coverage for medical expenses when living and working abroad.

Top Recommended Health Insurance Company for US Citizens Overseas

Cigna Global Medical Insurance Plan

Rated A
  • Perfect for expats who need need comprehensive protection and 24/7 service.
  • An international network with over 1.65 million trusted hospitals and doctors.
  • All plans include mental health and cancer care.

Other Guides On Expat Health Insurance

Why Travel Medical Insurance Coverage Isn’t Enough For Expats Abroad
Cigna Expat Insurance- Best Global Health Plans For Living Abroad
10 Common Mistakes Expats Make Buying Health Insurance For Living Abroad
20 Facts About Healthcare In Colombia Every Expat Must Know
Choosing An International Health Plan- Checklist For Buying Expat Insurance Coverage
The Expat Guide To Colombian Health Insurance Plans: EPS, Private, Global
A Step-By-Step Plan For Lowering Your Cost of Expat Health Insurance
Top 12 Best Medical Insurance Companies For Expats Living Abroad And 1 To Avoid [2022]
Expat Health Insurance Plans- Understanding Your Medical Coverage Options Abroad

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benefits of global health insurance for US citizens living overseas

1) Savings compared to medical coverage in the US

US citizens living abroad can save 50% to 80% on the cost of health insurance overseas compared to the United States. My quote below for a bronze-level IMG Global Medical Insurance plan costs $1057 per year. Compare this to my Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) bronze plan in Nevada, which costs me $5,165 annually.

quote for IMG Global Medical Insurance

IMG Quote - International Health Insurance with global coverage for $88 per month

US Domestic Insurance Quote covering only the United States for $430 per month

The average cost for a basic level US domestic health insurance plan (Bronze) is over $11,000 per year. 

Other ACA health insurance plan average annual premiums:

  1. Silver-$14,604
  2. Gold- $16,032

The United States (#1 out of 100 countries) continues to top the list of the most expensive countries for health insurance. In contrast, Americans living abroad in popular expat destinations like Colombia (#19), Hungary (#74), Romania (#76), and Thailand (#78) can save up to 63% on their international medical insurance. 

When nearly "1 in 5 uninsured adults in 2021 went without needed medical care due to cost," it's comforting to know that I can buy full medical coverage for less than a $3 cup of Starbucks coffee in the US.

table showing the prices for international health insurance in other countries

Top 10 Most Expensive Countries For Health Insurance 2021

2) Worldwide Coverage for medical expenses abroad

With comprehensive international coverage, US citizens living overseas can receive world-class medical assistance and support anywhere in the world.

International Health Insurance Policies Typically Cover:

  • Inpatient Care- cost of hospital treatment and accommodation where you stay at least one night in a foreign hospital under the care of a doctor, nurse, or other types of health care provider.
  • Outpatient Care- only for the cost of health care due to accidents or medical emergencies

Inpatient Cost of Hospital Treatment Typically Includes:

  • Accommodation
  • Surgery, Operating, and Recovery room
  • Prescribed medicines, drugs, and dressings
  • Pathology, radiology, and diagnostic tests (excluding Advanced Medical Imaging)
  • Intensive care: intensive therapy, coronary care, and high dependency unit
  • Surgeons' and anesthetists' fees
  • Emergency inpatient dental treatment

Optional Program Benefits:

  • Preventative Care
  • Outpatient consultations with specialists and medical practitioners
  • Prescribed drugs
  • Mental and behavioral health care
  • Cancer care, including preventive cancer surgery
  • Maternity care
  • Vision and Dental

3) Admission to the best local private doctors and hospitals

Worldwide health insurance provides access to a private network of hospitals in your new country of residence. Private hospitals have higher fees than public hospitals funded by government healthcare programs. 

The higher cost of private healthcare means fewer crowds, shorter waiting times, better medical equipment, and faster access to English-speaking doctors.

buying international health insurance for US citizens living abroad allows for access to less crowded private hospitals with faster access to doctors

Private hospitals abroad are less crowded and provider faster service

4) Access to an extensive global network of hospitals, doctors, and medical facilities in the event of a medical emergency

Worldwide health insurance offers access to a wide range of international doctors and medical facilities around the world. You are not limited to the local hospital across town. A global plan allows you to choose the best care from the best doctors, no matter where you live aboard.

chart showing the global network available to US citizens with international health insurance

Cigna Global Network

5) Access to specialized care and treatments that may not be available in your new country

The quality of foreign hospitals varies significantly from country to country. When local health care providers cannot treat your medical condition, an international health insurance policy's medical evacuation and repatriation coverage steps in.

This program benefit pays to transport you if you require medical attention that cannot be treated at the nearest hospital in your host country.

6) Multilingual and Higher Level of Customer Service:

Expatriate health insurance plans offer multilingual customer service that is available 24/7 for your convenience. This ensures you always have access to the help and support you need.

Additionally, global medical insurers invest in systems and technology such as telemedicine, cashless appointments, appointment scheduling, and paperless claims that help US citizens to access the care they need quickly and conveniently.

With a global health insurance you can relax knowing that English speaking assistance is only a phone call away.

7) Excellent Benefits, Including Dental and Vision Coverage

More expensive insurance includes additional dental and eye care coverage to maintain your oral health and keep your eyes healthy abroad.

Dental coverage typically includes:

  • routine exams and cleaning
  • emergency dental treatment
  • X-rays and other diagnostic tests
  • minor restoration and fillings
  • oral surgery and extractions
  • major restorative services

Vision coverage usually includes:

  • eyeglasses
  • contact lenses
  • eye exams

8) Insurance Plan Options Can Include Maternity-related Costs and Family Care

Global health insurance packages cover the necessary expenses for expecting parents and expanding families living abroad. These plans often include coverage for maternity-related costs, such as medical expenses for delivery, prenatal and postnatal checkups, and newborn care.

9) Emergency medical transport service

International health insurance policies provide US citizens living overseas with a contingency plan for medical emergencies that cannot be treated locally. An evacuation flight can transport patients to the nearest adequate medical facility or back to the United States.

Medical transportation providers charge up to $225,000 for emergency flights, but with an international health plan, expats can avoid these potentially devastating medical costs.

Medical Transportation Flight

10) Avoiding the hassle of trying to get reimbursed for medical expenses

When using in-network doctors, global health insurance policies can pay for your medical expenses upfront.

You can avoid the arduous and time-consuming process of getting claims reimbursed after the fact by using direct billing.

Can US citizens get free health insurance overseas?

Yes and No. Yes, US citizens can access free health care programs in overseas countries offering universal public healthcare. However, nothing comes for free. US expats can typically only access these countries' public health insurance programs if they make monthly contributions to the national healthcare funds.

Countries with free public insurance or universal healthcare may be available to expats. Photo Credit

Check here for a list of countries offering low-cost or free National Health Insurance or Universal Healthcare

However, free public healthcare systems are typically overcrowded. Reports of expats waiting months to see a primary care doctor or even years to see a specialist are common. Additionally, free domestic insurance plans may not cover specific procedures, hospital stays, medications, private hospitals, or emergency evacuation to the US.

US citizens should buy an international health insurance plan when living abroad for additional protection and coverage.

 INSIDER TIP : Free Healthcare For US Expats- While several countries offer free or universal healthcare for legal residents, Brazil is the only country currently providing free medical care, including all treatments, surgeries, and medications for any conditions to US citizens living legally in the country.

What are the best options for international medical insurance abroad?

Finding an affordable international health insurance plan can be challenging. There are several options available that can provide coverage tailored to the individual's needs and budget. 

  1. Cigna Global Medical Close Care
  2. GeoBlue Xplorer Essential
  3. International Medical Group (IMG) Global Medical Bronze
  4. William Russell Bronze

Cigna Global

FINANCIAL RATING:

A

CUSTOMER ReVIEWS

Cigna is one of the best expat medical insurance companies in the world
  • Most popular expat medical insurance company
  • Customizable plans allowing you to pay for only the coverage you need, while offering flexible monthly rates 
  • Extensive global medical network of over 1.65 million hospitals and healthcare professionals in over 200 countries

Average Cost 

$$

Maximum Limits

$1,000,000 - Unlimited

Travel or International Medical

International Only

Ideal For- Older expats with health concerns or chronic conditions

IMG- International Medical Group

FINANCIAL RATING:

A

CUSTOMER ReVIEWS

IMG is consider the best international health insurance company's customer service
  • 25 international health insurance plans from travel medical (Patriot Plus) to international medical (IMG Global Medical)
  • Highest ranked customer satisfaction of any expat medical insurance company on the list
  • Insuring expats in 190+ countries with 800,000+ doctors and healthcare facilities worldwide

Average Cost 

$

Maximum Limits

$1,000,000 – $8,000,000

Travel or International Medical

BOTH

Ideal For- Younger expats looking for affordable overseas coverage with optional benefits

GeoBlue

FINANCIAL RATING:

A-

CUSTOMER ReVIEWS

  • Offers global citizens several types of plans, from trip insurance to premium level comprehensive international medical coverage.
  • Has a global private network of 1.7 million healthcare practitioners, clinics, and hospitals in 190 countries.
  • The largest expat insurance company in the world. Part of US insurance company Blue Cross Blue Shield that protects 1 in 3 US citizens.

Average Cost 

$$$

Maximum Limits

Unlimited

Travel or International Medical

BOTH

Ideal For- American expatriates who need comprehensive benefits and frequently return to the US

William Russell

FINANCIAL RATING:

A+

CUSTOMER ReVIEWS

william russell is the best medical insurance for expats who don't need to travel to the US
  • Not just an international health insurance company, William Russell also offers expat life insurance and income protection.
  • An international network of over 40,000 healthcare facilities and doctors around the world.
  • Offers comprehensive medical benefits, including the latest cancer treatment and therapies, such as $6,000 in cancer genome testing.

Average Cost 

$

Maximum Limits

$1,500,000 - $5,000,000

Travel or International Medical

INTERNATIONAL ONLY

Ideal For- Expats needing personalized healthcare and only need limited coverage for the United States

Steps to choose an affordable international health insurance plan

1

Step 1: Understand the different types of medical insurance

American expats have a choice of health insurance options, including local public insurance, private local health insurance, private global insurance, or travel medical insurance.

Here is a comparison of different expat medical insurance options and how to choose the right one for you. 

2

Step 2: Check the eligibility requirements for a worldwide health insurance policy

Know which clauses are important and understand where your policy hides critical information.

This checklist on buying expat insurance shows clauses to watch out for and helps you get the right coverage for your buck.

3

Step 3: Research reviews and customer service ratings of recommended expat insurance companies

Checking the customer feedback and ratings of different international health insurance companies is a great way to ensure you find the best plan for your needs.

Here is a detailed comparison of the best expat medical insurance companies to help.

4

Step 4: Look for the best ways to save money on your international health insurance

This guide walks through my step-by-step process to reduce expat health insurance costs by 80% saving me $4000 per year! 

5

Step 5: Avoid common mistakes expats make when choosing overseas medical insurance

Some common mistakes include:

  • Not using a global health insurance broker to shop for the best overseas policy
  • Thinking you are covered when visiting the US
  • Not including preventive and wellness care, and the worse, 
  • Assuming your US insurance will cover you overseas.

Check out my recent article on the 10 mistakes expats make when buying health insurance for living abroad to learn more.

6

Step 6: Get quotes from different global health insurers specializing in US expats

7

Step 7: Confirm COVID-19 protection

While most pandemic travel restrictions have passed, not everything is back to normal and regulations can change suddenly. At the time of this article, there are still 8 countries requiring testing and quarantine on arrival. 

Confirm your destination country's latest requirements and that your international policy meets the minimum COVID insurance requirements to enter the country. 

Without adequate coverage for quarantine and isolation costs, you could face exorbitant out-of-pocket costs and potential deportation.

8

Step 8: Research country specific healthcare 

Sometimes modern problems require modern solutions. There are several unique ways of managing your total cost of health care abroad, but they require a bit of research. 

Start with researching your destination country's healthcare