There really are few things more valuable than the opportunity to travel the world. If you've been chosen by your employer to work abroad, then you get to have the best of both - see amazing foreign lands, and still have a solid income. Whether your destination is Asia or the Pacific, Europe, Africa, or South America, there'll be plenty of new adventures and challenges for you to experience!
Something you won't want to become a snag, however, is what will happens when you require medical assistance in a foreign country. Regions around the world will have a mix of countries with modern healthcare systems, and those which may have sub-standard care systems. Having health insurance while working abroad can give you peace of mind where you'll be able to access the best care when the unexpected happens, as well as manage associated costs.
What are my options?
When it comes to health insurance for expatriates abroad, your options will really depend on your length of stay and your appetite for further travel away from your host country. As an American, you'll also have to be mindful of your Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirements when taking into account international health insurance solutions. Here's a quick rundown on what you can expect:
- Travel insurance - Travel insurance is generally purchased before you travel and will generally cover you for emergency medical assistance in a chosen country or region for a period lasting from three months to a year.
- Local insurance products - Your host country may have a number of insurers already offering insurance products that can cover you for medical care for the duration of your stay - similar to buying an insurance plan back home!
- International insurance - International plans are your most comprehensive health insurance option. They can offer you coverage not just in your host country, but in almost every other country you could think to visit, and sometimes in your home country too. (America is commonly excluded from coverage, but see below for more information.)
The options have been listed from least expensive to most, so you'll need to factor in your budget, as well as your travel plans and care needs. So how do you know which is right for you?
Travel insurance is perfect for the expatriate heading away on a short term assignment (less than a year). You'll pay the least expensive cost for coverage that will also include extras such as flight delays, lost luggage and travel documents, however, travel insurance policies are only really designed to get you well enough to travel back to your home country. The health insurance features of a travel policy are generally:
- Repatriation costs
- Emergency medical care; including necessary evacuations
- Accidental death or dismemberment
Remember that travel insurance is still fairly limited compared to local and international plans.
Purchasing local health insurance policies around the world should be similar to buying one at home. Insurers can offer you their products directly, or your host country may have an insurance broker available to assist you with locating an insurance package that meets your needs. Local insurance policies will provide more health coverage benefits than a travel policy for a bit more money, and typically feature:
- Hospital cover
- General treatment cover (otherwise known as ancillary or extras)
- Ambulance cover
- Emergency evacuation and repatriation
Local insurance policies can also include additional benefits at extra cost, such as maternity and dental coverage, as well as negotiable eligibility for chronic and pre-existing conditions. Expats living abroad who don't or won't travel much from their host country might find these a better coverage solution than travel policies, for a better price than international solutions.
International Health Insurance
Expats that will travel frequently while living abroad, either for work or pleasure, and those who want the most comprehensive coverage, may wish to consider an international health insurance plan. They are considerably more expensive than local plans, but you can expect the following benefits with an international plan:
- Extensive medical coverage worldwide
- The ability to add extras such as dental or maternity care (at extra cost)
- A wider choice of private and semi-private hospitals, medical staff and care options
The extra benefit of this plan is that coverage goes with you, even if you leave your host country for work or a holiday. International health insurance policies are global - meaning you won't need a separate travel or local policy whenever you head to another country.
International Insurance and the ACA
Previously, Americans (and those required to pay American taxes) were not able to purchase an international health insurance plan that would also meet their ACA minimum essential coverage requirements - meaning, they would have to purchase both a local plan, and either a travel, overseas local, or international plan to avoid paying US government penalties.
Recently, however, international solutions that meet the ACA minimum essential coverage requirements have been released, meaning that American expats can now have one health insurance policy that covers them both stateside and abroad! Although America has a new President-elect, the ACA remains legally binding on all taxpayers for the time being.
About the Author
Pacific Prime is a leading international insurance broker for helping over 120,000 expat clients around the world. Their expert advisors come with 15 years experience in providing the right international health solutions for the best price, and their partners include many of the world's major insurance brands.
For more information about overseas medical procedures, be sure to attend the Employer Healthcare & Benefits Congress which is fully integrated with the World Medical Tourism & Global Healthcare Congress so you can interact and network with insurance providers and medical tourism experts from across the globe.