International health insurance is an insurance policy designed to offer healthcare cover for expatriates away from their country for over an extended period of time (at least 1 year). It covers both emergency and routine medical expenses. This insurance gives policyholders the flexibility to select the best doctors or medical facilities. The coverage is usually not limited to a specific country but extends to an area of coverage. Thereby, policyholders can seek medical treatment outside of their country of residence as well.
What does it cover?
The most basic coverage includes inpatient treatment. However, you can add options like outpatient treatment, dental treatment, optical treatment, routine check-ups, vaccinations or maternity coverage.
Medical evacuation and repatriation are also riders of international health insurance. It is highly recommended if you travel often or live in a country where medical facilities are limited. In such cases, you will most likely need to be evacuated to the nearest country where medical facilities meet the international standards.
Most international health insurance plans often offer a high level of flexibility, allowing policyholders to customize the plans in order to suit their needs and that of their family.
How much does it cost?
There are many factors that impact the premium for international health insurance. First and foremost is age: the older you are, the more expensive it is. The next consideration is your country of residence, as the costs and quality of medical treatment will directly impact the premium. Of course, your chosen options will also have a direct impact.
Most insurance companies offer the possibility of including co-payment or annual excess to lower the insurance premium.
How to compare plans?
There is no international standard for international health insurance so it is difficult for someone not familiar with such services, to compare different plans. While the policy benefits summary may seem very similar, the premium might simply double from one plan to another. It is therefore essential to go through the policy wording to understand the main differences between each plan.
Another aspect that is hard to evaluate but essential is the quality of service and reactivity of the claim/emergency team. Prompt service is paramount when emergency situations require immediate actions.
Is international health insurance similar to travel insurance?
Both travel and international health insurance cover medical expenses while living/travelling outside of your country of origin. There are, however, important differences that you need to understand in order to avoid a difficult medical situation overseas.
The key difference is that travel insurance has a limited duration (no more than 12 months) and it only covers emergency treatments until you are back in your home country. It is far more restrictive than an international health insurance plan. Travel insurance should only be a supplementary cover (to a local plan for instance).