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Health and CovidFor many expatriates, finding adequate health insurance coverage is just another box to tick when planning their expat adventure. COVID-19 has changed that and underscores the importance of having a comprehensive health insurance plan. And as this pandemic continues to impact the world, I am increasingly approached by individuals asking not just why global health insurance but also if they are eligible.

Why International Health Insurance Is Important

We will discuss eligibility later, but first, let’s discuss the why. I have heard from individuals who regret not having adequate coverage, as their domestic health insurance plan would not cover their particular medical condition when abroad. And by adequate, I don’t always mean will it cover a sudden illness. Will it also provide access to care inside and out of the U.S.? Do you have any pre-existing conditions and will they be covered? What are the benefits for outpatient care, and are their limits or exclusions on certain benefits, such as maternity and preventive care? The right global health insurance plan will cover you at home and abroad, for a wide range of medical issues. That is why you need it.

Are You Eligible?

Unlike short-term travel medical plans which have no medical underwriting and few, if any, eligibility requirements, long-term expatriate insurance plans have more stringent requirements. Considerations: How long do you plan to be outside of your home country? What is your nationality or residency in relation to the country you are traveling to? Do you have the appropriate visa requirements? COVID-19 has created additional scenarios to ask yourself when determining your eligibility for a plan:

  • Are you a foreign national living in the U.S. and will not return to your home country and are no longer eligible for a corporate or student group plan?
  • Were you on a short term visa on a study abroad program whose program has ended and you have decided to stay overseas?
  • Are you Third Country National (i.e. someone who is working for a U.S. company or studying in the U.S.) residing inside the U.S. and will you be outside of your home country for 3 months or longer per year?

Finally, there are some circumstances where individuals cannot enroll in a U.S. domestic health insurance plan and may meet the eligibility requirements for an international health plan. I would advise individuals to first determine eligibility for a domestic health insurance plan before considering an expat plan.

A health insurance broker that specializes in international coverage can help you answer these questions and determine the appropriate health insurance plan for your specific needs. An agency should represent multiple carriers and be able to not only help you apply to a plan, but also help you understand your options and compare plans. For example, some insurance providers—such as GeoBlue—offer plans specifically created for expatriates with options for specialty needs like those of students and missionary.  

International health insurance is a complex industry, but I, like many of my peers, are committed to helping travelers navigate the changing landscape. If you’d like additional help understanding these eligibility requirements, please request a quote or reach out to us via email at info@internationalinsurance.com

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About The Author

Joe Cronin is President and Owner of International Citizens Insurance, a division of International Citizens Group, which provides international citizens living and traveling abroad with access to a variety of health insurance plans to cover them anywhere in the world. He has more than 20 years of experience helping the globally mobile with their health insurance needs.

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