Although living abroad for the next year is an exciting prospect, there is much to plan and consider. One aspect that’s often overlooked is extended medical treatment. Most people living abroad would want to return home for treatment and recovery and to be close to loved ones if they become critically ill.
Many mistakenly assume that if a critical illness should arise, then their managed care plan would take care of things. This couldn’t be further from the case. Your health insurance plan in the United States isn’t designed to cover you when you are out of the country for an extended stay. Medicare and Medicaid don’t offer any coverage for any medical expense that develops outside the United States. HMOs (Health Maintenance Organizations) generally will cover emergency room treatment wherever you are, but routine health coverage is offered through the state provider networks of your resident state. If you use a network doctor, PPOs (Preferred Provider Organizations) will cover a greater portion of the expense.
Some might turn to Travel insurance as a source of extended medical treatment coverage. This too isn’t quite the case. Yes, Travel insurance generally will provide you with a certain degree of coverage for illness and injury. The amount and extent of coverage is based on what plan you choose. However, the benefit period is usually only six months. So, if your trip is a year long, then you will only be covered for half of your stay and then be responsible for any incurred medical expenses thereafter.
Expatriate Health insurance, by its very name, should alert you that this might be the Health insurance you’re seeking. In Latin, “ex” means away from and “patria” means fatherland. This insurance is geared toward those who will be away from their home, especially stays that extend past six months. Expatriate Health insurance is specifically designed so that you don’t have the geographical limitations and restrictions to provider networks that you have in your managed care plan. Coverage is often only half of the problem when trying to navigate a foreign health system. The Expatriate Health insurance will also help when dealing with language barriers, transportation to U.S. health care centers, and currency exchange.
Expatriate Health insurance plans are divided into two categories:
The first is the basic expatriate plan. This plan offers coverage for care in-hospital and in-patient, meaning it will cover areas such as a hospital stay, services from a number of medical providers, and ambulance transportation. Home health nursing care and emergency dental services are also usually covered. Enhancements to the basic plan, such as outpatient services, certain therapy services, and prescription drugs, may be purchased for an additional cost. Many of the basic plans will also offer emergency medical evacuation coverage for an additional cost, which will transport you immediately from wherever you are to the nearest advanced medical treatment center in the event a medical emergency should arise. Most medical evacuation coverage will also include a return fare.
The second category is the Comprehensive Expatriate Health insurance plan. This is useful if you require more extensive medical coverage, such as for dietary, psychiatric, eyes, ears, chiropractic, osteopathy, rehabilitation, labor and delivery, and home nursing care needs. Certain prescription medications and diagnostic testing may be covered as well.
Like any health plan, expatriate coverage usually has certain exclusions and restrictions. Most carriers will generally not cover preexisting conditions; injuries from war, rioting, and terrorism; and those with hazardous occupations. In cases of preexisting conditions, certain carriers may underwrite it for an additional cost.