If you’re moving or living abroad, then you need expat/international health insurance! But there’s a lot of insurance options out there, so it’s hard to know what to choose. Check out this article to learn about the best options (with pros & cons) and see tables comparing the most important features of each plan.
So you’re going to live abroad….congrats!
Living, working, or going to school in a foreign country can be an exciting experience. And you’ll join thousands of people just like you who have the chance to explore the world outside of their home countries. But as you make plans to get that visa and schedule that doctor’s visit for vaccinations, there’s another important thing you want to make sure you don’t forget about: expat/international health insurance.
What is expat/international health insurance?
International health insurance for expats and immigrants covers your medical expenses while you’re living in another country long-term. Usually, it’ll cover you for a wide range of healthcare – from medical emergencies to just preventative healthcare.
As you’ll see down below, this is NOT the same as travel insurance and it’s not something you’ll want to skip.
Why do I need international medical insurance for expats and immigrants?
Just like you need health insurance at home, you also need health insurance if you plan on living in another country for more than 6 months. And many countries also require proof of medical insurance before they grant you a visa or work permit (you’ll find more about this in the “expat/international health insurance for immigration” section down below).
While you’re living abroad, you’ll still need to have regular physicals, treat any health issues when they come up, and have a plan in place in case you have a health emergency.
You may be able to get healthcare through an employer if you are being sent to another country to work, but not always. So, make sure you check with the company to find out if they have an international health plan in place for you and your family.
The good news is that you can buy an immigrant/expat insurance plan that mimics the coverage you have already at home and will give you comprehensive health coverage worldwide.
All of these international health plans I recommend below can be modified whether you are a single traveler or need family coverage.
Why can’t I just make sure I’m healthy before I leave?
Hopefully, you’ll visit your doctor before you leave your home country. But you also need to take care of yourself while you’re away. And if you have pre-existing conditions or are on maintenance medications, they won’t be covered in another country.
And as we all know….accidents happen (I broke my toe once in South Korea, I’ve met travelers who fell off their skateboard, anyone who’s spent time abroad has probably encountered food poisoning, etc.). So you want to make sure you’re covered when they do.
Why can’t I just keep the health insurance I already have at home?
Your health insurance from back home won’t cover you while you live in another country long-term. And if you aren’t a citizen of the country you will be moving to, you won’t be covered by its public healthcare system.
Can I just use travel insurance for healthcare while living abroad?
In general, no. Travel insurance is typically purchased for stays that are less than 6 months in a single country (although you can get longer plans for several countries if you’re a tourist).
Here’s a bit more info on travel insurance versus expat/international health insurance below.
Difference between travel insurance & expat/international health insurance
- Is for tourists or people who are just traveling, not living in a new country
- Usually only covers medical emergencies that happen overseas (and won’t usually cover things like basic preventative care)
- May also cover things like lost baggage and canceled flight (depending on your policy)
- Is sometimes required to travel to certain areas (like the European Schengen Area)
To learn more about travel insurance, check out our article with the 3 Best and Cheapest Travel Insurance Companies.
Expat/international/immigrant health insurance:
- Is for people moving abroad or living long-term in another country
- Works like your normal insurance from back home would
- Covers more than just emergency medical care (such as preventative care, dental, or vision)
- Can cover things like pregnancy, cancer treatment, or mental health services (depending on the plans)
- Is often a requirement to apply for visas or resident permits
Expat/international health insurance for immigration and applying for residence permits/visa
In most countries, to get a temporary or permanent resident visa, you will need to prove that you are covered by some kind of international health insurance (and no, they won’t just accept travel insurance).
We all know immigration can be a bit tricky, so make sure the expat/international health insurance policy you are buying meets the immigration office requirements of the country you are moving to. You may be able to find this info online, otherwise, you’ll probably want to contact them directly.
Personal experience using expat/international health insurance for immigration in Sweden (hint: it’s not always easy): When Nikki moved to Sweden from the United States, she needed to prove to the immigration that she was covered by an international health insurance to get her temporary residence permit. She bought a policy from one of the companies below, and it was accepted by immigration.
But then when she applied for her tax number through the Swedish tax office and needed to show proof of international health insurance again, this same policy wasn’t accepted and she had to purchase a new one with a different company.
If this is an issue you think you might run into, be sure to look into the cancellation policies of each insurance company. Then, even if immigration rejects the insurance plan you have, you won’t lose too much by canceling your current plan and buying a new one.
What should I look for in an international healthcare plan for expatriates?
While the plan you choose will depend on the kind of coverage you need while you live as an immigrant/expat, here are some of the basic things they should include:
- Adequate yearly benefit maximums
- Flexibility in plans and prices
- Wellness care and emergency care
- Inpatient and outpatient hospital visits
- A large network of doctors and medical facilities to choose from
- Multilingual and 24/7 customer service
We’ve compared our three favorite expat/immigration insurance options for you to check out below. All offer basic coverage for inpatient care and routine doctor’s visits, emergency evacuations, and 24/7 customer service.
Dental and vision will cost you more. If you are pregnant or plan on expanding your family while you’re in another country, you’ll have to buy the most expensive plans.
And just remember that the less expensive your plan is, the less coverage you’ll get.
So, make sure that you do your research in order to find the right plan that works for you.
Some questions to ask yourself before you buy expat/international medical insurance:
Do you need a private room if you’re admitted to a hospital?
Are you planning on starting a family or expanding your family?
Do you have any pre-existing conditions or are you on any medications you need to continue while living in another country?
Are you willing to pay a higher deductible for lower premiums?
The 3 Best Companies for Expat Insurance/International Healthcare Plans
What I like:
- Three plans to choose from: Silver, Gold, and Platinum.
- Basic silver plan covers $100 of eye care a year and some cancer screenings
- You can modify a plan to add outpatient coverage and emergency medical evacuation if you need to leave the country to seek treatment
- They offer flexible deductibles so you can control what you pay upfront.
- 24/7 multilingual customer service
- Monthly, quarterly or yearly payment options
- Direct provider billing (Cigna pays for your appointment directly)
- Middle Eastern medical coverage
- Plans offer organ transplant services & kidney dialysis treatments
- Their website has info about your host country’s finance system, culture, and schools
What I didn’t like:
- You have to give a lot of personal information before you can get a quote.
- The basic plan doesn’t cover maternity care (so you’ll need a purchase a more expensive policy if you plan to have a baby while abroad)
IMG sells several kinds of insurance. From travel insurance to health insurance for students to insurance for crew members and, obviously, insurance for expatriates. So when searching on their website, look for health insurance for “Expat / Global Citizen.”
What I like:
- Have 5 plans for you to choose from
- They offer you a cash incentive and up to 50% of your deductible waived if you choose one of their facilities outside of the U.S.
- They have more than 29 years of immigrant/expat health insurance coverage experience.
- Their website features an online portal for 24/7 access and emergency medical services
- A network that includes 17,000 physicians and facilities worldwide.
- Direct billing
- They cover individuals & families from all nationalities
- Prices for 12-month worldwide coverage with a $250 deductible could cost less than $1000 annually for their Bronze package
What I don’t like:
- Coverage ends at 75 years of age (but if you take out a plan before you turn 65 and keep it, you can take part in their lifetime enrollment plan)
- Basic plan doesn’t cover maternity and even their most expensive plan only covers deliveries and newborn care after you’ve been enrolled for at least 10 months
As with IMG, Seven Corners also has medical insurance for travelers, students, faculty, and others.
What I like:
- They have a 20-year history providing international health insurance options
- Offer plans that cover pre-existing conditions
- They’ll locate an embassy for you and give you travel advisories
- 24/7 multilingual travel assistance
- Their plans offer inpatient, outpatient, dental, emergency evacuation and emergency reunion (a friend or family member to be flown to be at your side while you are in the hospital)
- You can add a hazardous sports rider that covers hang gliding, zip lining, water skiing, and bungee jumping.
- Basic plans are reasonably-priced – A single male moving to Fiji can get a basic plan with a $250 deductible for about $1 a day
What I don’t like:
- You can’t get a plan if your U.S. address is in Maryland, Washington, New York, South Dakota or Colorado
- Can’t get coverage if you’re above 60 years old
- They don’t provide coverage in if you’re going to Iran, Syria, U.S. Virgin Islands, Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria, or Sierra Leone
- You need to have precertification for certain services like inpatient stays, rehab, and outpatient surgeries, and home healthcare
Do you consider yourself a “global citizen,” or are you a digital nomad and need medical insurance that will follow you worldwide?
If so, the insurance above works for you too. The 3 international health insurances listed are ideal for digital nomads or any person who keeps living all over the world and doesn’t have a fixed country of residency. After all, “global citizens” deserve global health insurance!
Quick summary comparison of the 3 international health insurance plans:
|Silver – $1 million||BRONZE – $1 million||Annual benefit maximum|
|Gold – $2 million||SILVER – $5 million||$60,000-$5 million|
|Platinum – Unlimited||GOLD – FOR COVERAGE UP TO 36 MONTHS – $5 million||Premium amounts increase based on age|
|GOLD – FOR COVERAGE AFTER 36 MONTHS – $5 million|
|GOLD PLUS – $5 million|
|PLATINUM – $8 million|
A complete table comparing these 3 health insurances for expats…
Worldwide Medical Insurance / Comparison Chart*
Part of the table courtesy of Tokio Marine HCC
*Note: this table is just for informational purposes and subject to change. It was accurate as of the time we wrote it here, but please check each company’s individual website for updated info.
The bottom line is if you are going to live in another country temporarily or permanently, you need to get yourself an immigrant/expat health insurance plan.
But we know it can be a little bit overwhelming to choose the right plan. We’ve been through this personally so please, leave a comment below if you have any questions or if there’s anything you think we’ve missed!
Do you live abroad and need to receive or send money back home cheaply?
I have a specific article to help you make international transfers as cheaply as possible: The 5 Best Websites for International Money Transfers (send and receive money from abroad).
Planning your next trip?
Then don’t forget travel insurance! You don’t want to get stuck paying a ton of money and ruining your trip if you get sick or have an accident without travel insurance. WorldNomads is ideal for adventurous travelers, backpackers, or anyone looking to be protected during their trip. They cover almost every single activity you can image!
Already reserved your hotel or hostel? If not, we recommend Booking.com. They have a huge selection of hotels and hostels all over the world. Plus, in most cases, you can cancel your reservation without any costs up to a few days before the check-in date!
And finally, will you need to rent a car during your trip? Then check out Rentalcar.com to search and compare car rental companies from all over the world on a single website. Then, you can find the cheapest price for the best car!
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