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International Travel Health Insurance

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In today's changing times, the careers of individuals and lifestyles of families have become increasingly global. When it comes to international work, study or travel, it's important to be protected around the clock and around the world. Individuals and families have to be able to afford adequate and timely medical help at all times – no matter where they are living, traveling or studying.

This article focuses on three major types of insurance plans that offer protection for international/global living, traveling and studying. These segments are classified as:

  • International Travel Health Insurance (for short term overseas travel)
  • International Student Insurance (for foreign students)
  • Expatriate Health Insurance (long term worldwide coverage for expats)

International Travel Health Insurance

Target Profile

This type of plan is designed mainly for short term travelers seeking protection during their travel outside the home country. Applicants include leisure travelers (individuals & groups), visiting family settled overseas, and foreign workers on short term assignments abroad.

These plans are primarily designed to offer coverage overseas (with very limited home country coverage if at all available). These are guaranteed issue plans and anybody can get coverage regardless of their health history.

Why is Coverage Required?

U.S. citizens who are on Medicare or Medicaid are not covered for healthcare expenses outside of the U.S. and some U.S. citizens either don't have health insurance at all, or have very limited coverage when they are travelling overseas.

Individuals and families insured under HMO Group Plans offered by their employers are protected only within the local HMO serving area; in these plans, benefits are severely reduced or completely excluded overseas.

Medical evacuation & repatriation benefits typically aren't offered under domestic plans. It is prudent for travelers to be able to protect themselves from costs related to ambulance services overseas, or the fees for sending mortal remains home from a foreign country.

Some countries require medical insurance as a part of the Visa Requirements. For example, the Schengen Countries (i.e. Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland) require tourists to have US$37,500 in medical evacuation and repatriation coverage.

Benefits & Exclusions

Typical benefits include coverage for medical expenses (i.e. in-patient hospitalization, out-patient and prescription drugs) for illness or injury that occurs during the travel period. Medical limits range from $25K to $1M. In the senior age category, medical coverage may be limited to $50K or $100K.

Coverage for pre-existing conditions is typically excluded. Some plans may offer limited coverage for a sudden acute onset of preexisting conditions enabling the insured to be stabilized in the foreign country and return home for further treatment and care. These plans also offer benefits for Medical Evacuation & Repatriation.

International Student Insurance

Target Profile

This type of plan is designed for individuals or groups of foreign students engaged in studies in the U.S. Also, U.S. students going overseas for study abroad programs can protect themselves under these plans.

These plans are primarily designed to offer coverage outside the student's home country (home country coverage is usually excluded). In addition, they are guaranteed issue plans and usually require a student or valid visa status to be eligible for coverage.

Why is Coverage Required?

Most foreign students arriving at U.S. schools and universities have very little or no healthcare coverage in the U.S. Either they are not insured in their home country, or the plans from their birth-countries don't offer overseas benefits.

U.S. J1/J2 visa for International Scholars on Exchange Visitor programs requires that all J1/J2 visa holders have health insurance for the entire duration of their U.S. stay. The U.S. Dept. of State has clearly defined the following insurance requirements and an extract follows:

  • Policies must provide medical benefits of at least $50,000 for each accident or illness.
  • If a J visa holder dies in the U.S., then the policy must provide at least $7,500 in repatriation benefits to send the remains to the home country for burial.
  • If, because of a serious illness or injury, and based on the advice of a doctor, the policy must pay up to $10,000 for the expenses of travel for Medical Evacuation.
  • The insurance company providing the insurance must meet minimum rating requirements established by Department of State (an A.M. Best rating of A- or better, an Insurance Solvency International, Ltd. (ISI) rating of A-1 or better, a Standard & Poor's Claims- Paying Ability rating of A- or better, or a Weiss Research, Inc. rating of B+ or better).

Benefits & Exclusions

Typical benefits of this type of plan include coverage for medical expenses (in-patient hospitalization, out-patient services and prescription drugs) for new illness or injury that occurs during the academic studies overseas. Medical limits range from $50K to $500K.

Coverage for pre-existing conditions is usually available after a 6 or 12 month wait period. These plans also offer coverage for pregnancy, mental health, and substance abuse in addition to Medical Evacuation & Repatriation benefits.

Expatriate Health Insurance

Target Profile

These plans are meant for expatriates living or working overseas on long term assignments. Plans are primarily designed to offer coverage worldwide including the home country of the expat.

Also, discerning individuals who prefer the best healthcare around the globe without geographical limitations often seek out this type of plan. These are long term health insurance plans that require a full medical history and underwriting to qualify for coverage.

Why is Coverage Required?

Marine Crew members, career missionaries, and government diplomats in foreign countries are typically outside of their home country for long periods of time. These individuals and their families are often unable to get health insurance coverage in their country of residence either because of their foreign citizenship, or due to their lack of a permanent home.

This creates a difficult situation, as these individuals need long term healthcare benefits both in their home country, and anywhere else they may live or travel.

Benefits & Exclusions

The benefits for these plans are designed on the same lines as the benefits of regular U.S. Domestic health insurance. Most plans offer either a $1M or $5M limit, while others have unlimited coverage.

Coverage for pre-existing conditions is usually available after a 12 or 24 month wait period. These plans have a rich set of benefits including coverage for pregnancy, organ transplants, preventive care etc. Many also include Medical Evacuation & Repatriation benefits.

The three segments described above are fairly well defined based on the applicant profiles (i.e. vacation travelers, immigrants, international students, long term missionaries, expats etc.) and their rather unique risks and requirements.

In some situations, insurance protection is mandatory (as in the case of visas to France, Germany, and international students at U.S. colleges), but in most cases it is voluntary. In general, there are no laws that require people traveling or living overseas (outside the US) to have insurance protection.

These segments are fairly well evolved with over a dozen carriers competing for market share. Some of the popular carriers include Chartis, Lloyds, Nationwide, Sirius International, Aetna International, and Cigna International. Some of the popular Plan Administrators include Seven Corners, International Medical Group, HCC Medical Insurance Services and HTH Worldwide.

About the Authors

Jim Krampen is the Executive Officer of Seven Corners, Inc. based in Carmel, Indiana provides a full set of insurance plan administrator services to the travel insurance industry. Over the many years the company has earned the respect of travelers and insurance agents worldwide.

Jim Grace, is the President & CEO of the world's largest insurance aggregator making it easy for consumers to compare and buy travel insurance for any type of journey. is a one-stop resource designed to meet our customers' comprehensive travel insurance needs in a private and secure environment.

Chiranth Nataraj is the Founder and President of International Services, Inc., an Insurance Agency specializing in offering visitors insurance and international student insurance. International Services, Inc. a BBB accredited company has been consistently recognized by clients worldwide for delivering value and exemplary service.

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