Choosing An International Health Plan- Checklist For Buying Expat Insurance Coverage

Buying expat insurance coverage is a vital part of moving abroad. But it doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. There are several factors you need to understand. Use this international health plan checklist to find the clauses in your policy hiding critical information that can be costly to ignore. minutes

04/25/23

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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, Best Life, Association of MBAs, and the iTunes documentary Seeking FIRE.

QUICK SUMMARY- Worldwide Health Plans

  • Details matter. Understanding the fine print in your medical policy is important
  • Don't focus on just the annual premiums. Look at the total cost of insurance with coinsurance, co-pays, and deductibles. 
  • Evacuation and repatriation are the critical, but overlooked benefits for expat insurance.
  • If you have any chronic conditions, double your policy for potential sub-limits.
  • Health plans typically have annual, lifetime, and per benefit limits.
  • Once your plan's limit is reached, you are responsible for any medical expenses for the rest of the contract.

Healthcare is complicated (and ridiculously expensive!), especially if you live outside the United States. But it's even more complex if you plan to live in another country and need worldwide coverage for you and your family.

The unique needs of expat life require a high-quality international health insurance plan to provide emergency treatment and protect you when moving abroad.

But buying an international health plan is not as simple as it sounds. Before putting your credit card info to purchase, many factors must be considered, including understanding your deductibles, waiting periods, maximum limits, and finding potential discounts.

The key is knowing which clauses are important and understanding where your policy hides critical information that can be costly to ignore.

This checklist will show you what clauses to watch out for and help ensure you get the right coverage while getting the most bang for your buck.

I'll cover topics you should look for in your policy document before purchasing a global health insurance plan. Including:

  • Understanding what waiting periods are and how you may not be reimbursed if you see a doctor, even if you are sick and have insurance
  • How to find and negotiate discounts with your primary insurance company to slash your annual costs
  • How to get a refund if you are unhappy with your plan's health care benefits
  • What coverage option is needed to ensure you get proper medical treatment if you fall sick in the jungles of some remote location in a foreign country

This checklist covers everything you need to know before buying international health insurance. Don't worry - I've included links to resources where you can learn even more.

This post may contain affiliate links. I may get a commission if you purchase something using my link. Please note, there is NO ADDITIONAL COST to you. For more information, please see my disclosure.

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What is an international health plan?

Global health insurance acts as a safety net for you and your family when you are living abroad and need medical assistance. International health plans can cover everything from routine check-ups to severe injuries like broken bones or even pay for cancer treatment.

Most international medical insurance plans provide a basic level of coverage but then allow you to custom-build a plan with optional add-on features. Add-on features can include prescription medications, vision, and dental care coverage.

Why is it important for expats to have international health insurance?

Uninsured expats involved in a catastrophic major medical emergency like a heart attack or motorbike accident can get financially devastated. A worldwide health plan is your financial shield and proverbial lifeline if you or someone in your family falls sick or suffers a severe accident.

Here are examples of unfortunate expats that needed their global insurance to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for medical evacuation after an injury while abroad:

  • Brain hemorrhage on a cruise in China- Insurance paid $232,000 USD
  • Slipped in the bathroom and fractured spine in Thailand- Insurance paid $159,000 USD

Living in another country is an exciting experience, but can pose many potential risks. Your health abroad should not be one of those risks. An international health plan is designed to provide the long-term worldwide medical coverage you need for illness or injury while living abroad. 

If you get seriously injured, international plans include emergency evacuation and repatriation coverage to get you home or to another country with better medical facilities.

Additionally, many countries require adequate health coverage before granting you a visa or, in some cases, before even allowing you to enter the country. Buying an international health insurance plan fulfills these requirements.

Compare quotes from different expat medical insurance companies within 60 Seconds

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Click here to find the FREE estimates from top global insurers to find the best plan right for you.

What are the benefits of an international health plan?

  • Access to health care: You will enjoy the advantage of being covered in the country where you reside and any country you travel to, including your home country.
  • Flexibility to choose medical care providers: You can choose a private hospital over a public facility and receive faster, more comprehensive, and better healthcare.
  • Wide range of coverage- optional add-ons include maternity benefits, dental, vision, prescription benefits, extreme sports cover, and more. Optional benefits allow you to build health coverage that matches your lifestyle with a cost of healthcare that fits your budget.
  • Emergency medical evacuation or repatriation flights- your plan provides with air transportation if you are injured in a remote location or require treatment in a foreign country with inadequate health care providers

What are the different types of international private insurance plans?

Global Private Health Insurance - expensive option with the best range of cover

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

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

Travel Medical Insurance - affordable option with the less coverage

Safety Wing

FINANCIAL RATING:

A++

CUSTOMER ReVIEWS

  • Travel medical and trip insurance that you can purchase without long-term commitments or annual contracts.
  • You can sign up and start your coverage abroad, even after leaving your home country.
  • Very restrictive limitations and exclusions for pre-existing conditions and chronic illness.

Average Cost