How Does International Health Insurance Work? Get To Know The Details If you Are A Frequent Traveller

Are you working, living, or studying abroad? International health insurance protects you in a foreign land, and you must know how does international health insurance work. Read this article to learn about it

Those who live abroad know the importance of international health insurance. It works much like health insurance at home, where you have coverage for emergency treatment, diagnosis, and post-treatment care. International health insurance provides long-term coverage to people living or working outside of their home country, typically for one year or longer. These health insurance plans are ideal for people such as expats and their families, who work at multinational companies, and have dual residencies.

All US citizens, while traveling abroad, must take care of their international health insurance beforehand to avoid any inconvenience. Keep in mind that your domestic health insurance won’t work in a foreign land. There is often some confusion when it comes to buying international health insurance. This is usually because many people do not know how international health insurance works.

There is also much insurance jargon and definitions, as you would expect with any insurance plan. However, international health coverage is vital if you are moving abroad or have already shifted abroad. People who frequently travel abroad know how it works; however, the concept might be unfamiliar for new expats. Therefore, some global travelers worldwide do not have health insurance as they don’t know how it works or, most importantly, don’t know how to get the best coverage.

You do not have to be an expert on ex-pat or international health insurance. But you must seek sufficient knowledge to become an informed consumer while purchasing global coverage. We have gathered information in this article to help you decide about health coverage to travel abroad, so let’s dive in.

What is international health insurance?

When you travel abroad for study, work, or any other purpose for a prolonged period, usually over a year, you will need international health insurance. Domestic insurance does not work internationally, and you have to get one. You must wonder why it is vital to get yourself this insurance? Well, you can have an encounter with any medical emergency or may need a routine health check-up during your stay abroad. What would you then do? No one can afford medical services on foreign waters without insurance.

An international health insurance plan can offer coverage options, such as medical care expenses, emergency medical evacuations, maternity coverage, and access to physicians and prescription drugs. With international health insurance, a person can continue receiving medical care regardless of their geographic location. This allows for more flexibility and enables individuals to seek treatment in multiple countries. International health insurance can also protect families against unexpected illnesses or accidents while traveling abroad.

Consumers need to understand the difference between international health insurance and travel insurance. International health plan packages are designed for individuals and families planning to relocate and live overseas for a prolonged period. In contrast, travel insurance is tailored towards those on vacations which may need to seek emergency treatment and cover for a journey home should they get ill or have an accident on vacation. It is a short-term solution with travel insurance packages reflecting this.

As a result, anyone looking to relocate abroad should ensure they take out a comprehensive international health insurance package that meets their needs, rather than simply taking out a basic travel insurance policy.

Who needs international health insurance?

Although usually not mandatory, an international medical insurance plan can help expats find their way around the local healthcare system, knowing they are covered if they become ill or injured while in a foreign country. International medical insurance could be taken by:

  • Individuals and families relocating overseas permanently,
  • Individuals wanting to retire abroad,
  • Individuals studying, volunteering, or working overseas for a set period,
  • Remote workers,
  • Multinational employers,
  • Frequent business travelers
  • Groups and global businesses

Having international health insurance gives you the advantage of choosing the hospital or doctor for your medical evaluation and treatment. Additionally, with worldwide medical insurance, you have the flexibility to choose a private hospital over a public facility and receive faster, more comprehensive, and better healthcare.

International health insurance benefits

International Health Plans offer comprehensive coverage for those living outside their home country for a year or longer. The best plans offer:

  • Inpatient and outpatient international medical care
  • Freedom to choose any hospital, clinic, or doctor
  • 24 Hour emergency assistance and helpline
  • Emergency evacuation, repatriation, hospitalization
  • Worldwide coverage, Including home country
  • Choice of GBP, Euro, and USD currencies for payment

International healthcare plans may offer additional benefits such as dental, vision, maternity, prescription drugs, and other coverage options. Some of these benefits are included in the base plan, while some are optional add-ons with an additional premium.

How does international health insurance work?

It is a tough challenge to provide cover to individuals and families wherever they want to go. To answer the increasing needs of people to be protected against the expenses stemming from medical concerns, insurers have created a vast, international network of doctors, clinics, and hospitals around the world. They made a system similar to how insurance plans work in your home country and then widened it globally. A reliable global health insurance system can cover you both at home and in foreign lands.

International Health Insurance plans benefit you by letting you access healthcare services, visit a doctor, and get admitted to a local hospital when you need to. Just contact your insurance provider, and they will help you find a local health care provider accredited under your plan. In case there is no local medical service provider, the insurer will cover your medical expenses at the provider of your choice. Alternatively, you can file a claim with the insurer and wait for reimbursement for the covered medical expenses.

If you need other services, including emergency medical evacuation, repatriation of remains, vision, or dental care, your international health insurance plan can also cover them. You just need to make sure that it includes all the benefits you desire and covers everything you want to be covered when you purchase the plan.

How much does international health insurance cost on average?

International health insurance costs can vary considerably, depending on several factors, so choosing the right policy is critical. The cost of international health insurance can be a big-budget item for many families. However, the peace of mind that you get with good coverage is unmatchable as in case of a medical emergency, you and your family are protected.

As a rule of thumb, international health insurance is more expensive than domestic health insurance, but how much does average private healthcare cost abroad? And how can you keep the cost of your health insurance under control? Let’s find out!

Your location is one of the key factors in calculating a premium. The cost of private healthcare varies dramatically in different countries, even when they are geographically close. For example, the average cost of health insurance in Singapore is $5,458, nearly double the cost compared to it’s not-too-distant neighbor Thailand, where international health insurance costs on average $2,728.

Ways to save money on your health insurance premium

Whilst an international health insurance policy is not usually cheap, there are things you can do to ensure you’re not paying more than you need to when finding the right policy for you and your family. Here are some of our top tips:

  • Ensure your cover is for the right location(s). Most expat plans are tailored to specific areas (or zones) of cover. You can save money by ensuring you pick the correct zone for you.
  • Choose a provider with modular/customized plans. Some providers lump several benefits together into one bundle. We know that one size will never fit everyone and that our members deserve tailored products.
  • When you choose a provider who offers modular plans, you can decide whether you want to pay extra for things like dental cover.
  • Pick the right ‘base plan’ for your needs. Once you’ve found an insurer with modular options, you can focus on picking the best base plan for your needs. It’s worth comparing more comprehensive plans and basic plans with added benefits.
  • Pick the right excess. Finally, it’s worth exploring different excess options. For example, if you’re only interested in a policy that covers you for serious illnesses, you may be better off with a Bronze plan and a higher excess.

International travel health insurance

International travel comes with certain expenses. You can plan for things, including your transportation and lodging arrangements and more. But then there are the things that you can’t plan for. Travel insurance helps you prepare for these unexpected events. Here we refer to medical expenses that can emerge during your travel abroad. If you are planning an international trip, one thing that you don’t want to leave home without is travel medical insurance or visitors insurance. Investing in a travel medical insurance plan is crucial before you head out to explore another country.

International travel insurance covers those traveling outside of their home country. Whether you plan a trip overseas for business or pleasure, having international health insurance is indispensable. No matter where you are, unforeseen incidents and mishaps can happen out of the blue, so it’s essential to be prepared. You’ll be covered against the unexpected by purchasing international travel health insurance.

This type of insurance provides coverage for illnesses or injuries on foreign land and accidents requiring medical attention. International travel insurance may also cover trip cancellations or interruptions, loss of passport or wallet, lost luggage, and emergency evacuation. International travel insurance offers the following benefits:

  • Medical coverage for new incidents, including accidents, illnesses, and injuries
  • Emergency services, including hospitalization and surgery
  • Emergency medical evacuation
  • COVID-19 coverage
  • Prescription coverage
  • Lost luggage

Why buy travel insurance from the US?

If you are traveling to the U.S. and are interested in buying international travel insurance, here are some benefits of purchasing insurance from the U.S.:

  • International medical insurance purchased from the U.S. is widely accepted throughout the country
  • Travel health insurance plans purchased from the U.S. usually provide instant coverage, so you won’t have to pay your expenses from your pocket.
  • These plans offer better customer support service in the U.S. time zone, so you may contact the insurance company if there’s an emergency.
  • Visitor medical insurance plans from the U.S. plans are readily available. They don’t require any lengthy and frustrating follow-ups on your part, unlike others that operate outside the United States.
  • Several insurance plans are available, so you may choose existing plans or have one tailor-made depending on your needs.
  • Insurance claims may be processed faster since U.S. insurance companies are in a better position to deal with U.S. health providers and doctors.
  • Insurance companies operating in the United States are more reliable with proven service records than their counterparts elsewhere.
  • Most insurance plans can be purchased and renewed online.
  • Most insurance companies are supported by the Better Business Bureau (BBB), which can help you in the event of any dispute.

Temporary international health insurance

While travel can be exciting, getting sick abroad can be a frightening experience. This is especially true when the traveler does not have insurance coverage valid overseas. Temporary health insurance can cover short vacations to long-term relocation for school or work situations. Temporary health insurance provides coverage for medical care while the traveler is abroad. It often also covers medical evacuation or transfer to another medical facility when the existing facilities are inadequate to provide the needed care.

International health insurance for students

Whether you are just starting to nail down your living arrangements or you’ve already begun packing your bags, it probably seems like there are thousands of items on your study abroad to-do list. One thing that you can not overlook is international health insurance for students. International student health insurance is medical coverage designed to meet the needs of students studying abroad. Insurance can be an essential part of the student visa application process, but it can also help reduce out-of-pocket costs for unforeseen medical expenses.

Why do I need international student health insurance?

Studying abroad can be inspiring and rewarding, meeting new friends, learning valuable knowledge, experiencing new cultures and customs, and exploring exciting and faraway places. But traveling to a foreign country can also pose unexpected challenges. Often, unexpected medical expenses can present financial challenges and may even interrupt your travel abroad.

There are several reasons to consider international student health insurance. You may need insurance to meet visa requirements. Most countries require international students to possess a valid student visa. Some visas require proof of insurance that meets specific requirements. Moreover, you may need insurance to meet your study abroad program or school requirements.

Your program or university may require you to have student health insurance that meets the requirements. Some programs and schools provide their insurance plans, but many allow students to purchase alternate coverage that meets requirements.

Do international students in the USA need health insurance?

International students in the US may need health insurance to enroll at university, but not necessarily to get an F1 visa. So, having adequate health insurance coverage is a requirement set by the university, not by US law. Therefore, you should check with the university where you will enroll whether health insurance is mandatory for international students.

If you are coming to the US to study and need International students’ health insurance, here are the steps you need to go through to get health insurance coverage for students in the USA.

  • Check if your school/university/college in the US implements a mandatory group health insurance plan
  • Check for companies offering health insurance for international students in the US
  • List the benefits you think are necessary for you
  • Select the most suitable plan for you, and proceed with purchasing it

Health insurance options for international students in the US

When you look up international student health insurance options in the USA, you should also consult the institution’s regulation where you are registered, to make sure in case they have any specific requirements. Here are the main types that you can choose from.

Mandatory group plan

Some schools/colleges/universities in the US have their compulsory plans with predetermined coverage, which international students must purchase. The main features of plans implemented by schools are as follows:

  • They are often automatically added to your tuition bill
  • Usually, they cost more than individual plans
  • They provide more comprehensive coverage, including:
    • Coverage for maternity
    • Pre-existing conditions without a waiting period
    • Mental health
    • Wellness
    • Preventative care

Mandatory group, with the option to waive

Some schools/colleges/universities have a mandatory insurance plan with predetermined coverage for all their students but still allow students to opt out. This is under the condition that the student who chooses to purchase health insurance outside the one predetermined by the school purchases an adequate plan. Schools decide whether the outside plan is sufficient through the “waiver form”. This document no longer than two pages contains a list of the benefits requirements that your health insurance policy needs to either meet or exceed. It requires both your signature and that of the insurance company.

Optional plan

Educational institutions in the USA do not have mandatory plans with pre-determined coverage. Therefore students are free to select whatever method they like. If your school permits you to purchase whatever plan you want, never go for the cheapest option. The one was offering most services, or least. Instead, take a look at several plans so you can pick the best health insurance for F1 visa students in the USA.

What type of international health insurance can American expats get?

US citizens moving abroad have three health insurance options, depending on the country they are moving to:

National (public) insurance

Some countries have state-run public health insurance schemes. If you are employed in a country with a good public insurance scheme, you will (usually) be automatically enrolled by paying monthly contributions, similar to taxes. You will get access to free or inexpensive health care in public hospitals or clinics.

International (private) insurance

In countries without a sound public healthcare system, many Americans rely on private insurance offered by private companies. In those countries, expats prefer to seek medical assistance in private hospitals and clinics, which are usually better equipped but more costly to pay out of pocket.

Combination of public and private health insurance

Even though public healthcare is good quality, the waiting times can be long, and the clinics can be overcrowded. Many expats choose an additional private insurance plan to complement their state insurance and allow them access to private hospitals and clinics.


International health insurance is an added responsibility when traveling abroad and having other commitments. In a foreign country, you may face a medical emergency or need to get a regular check-up, which can cost you a fortune without international health insurance. Several companies provide international health insurance. With many international health insurance policies, you can choose a specific area of the globe where you will be covered, such as Europe or even worldwide. Please remember that traveling overseas to receive medical treatment is not likely to be covered in your medical insurance plan.

Sandra Johnson

Sandra Johnson

Sandra Johnson was a few years out of school and took a job as a life insurance agent in California, selling coverage door-to-door for Prudential. The experience taught her about the technical components of insurance and its benefits for individuals and society, as well as the misunderstandings people often have about insurance. She has over ten years’ experience in the insurance industry, having worked as both a Broker and Underwriter, assisting clients across a broad range of industries. At Insurance Noon, Sarah diligently gathers all the required information and curates up pieces to provide meaningful insurance solutions. Her personal value proposition is to demonstrate a genuine interest in always adding value for clients.Her determined approach to guiding clients has turned her into a platinum adviser to multiple insurers.

Insurance Noon is the world's leading source of insurance related content on the web, focusing on industry news, buying guides, reviews, and much more.