Health Insurance for Expatriates Adds New Dimension To The Debate


If the highly contentious and uncertain nature of health insurance reform has you considering moving to another country, your need for health insurance, should you decide to get it, does not go away. Expatriate insurance is a special type of health insurance that caters to the needs of people who stay outside the United States for an extended amount of time.

Expatriate insurance is not the same as travel insurance. The latter is usually sufficient for short-term travel and is purchased to cover what an individual’s ordinary health insurance policy does not cover or is in addition to it. While travel insurance can be very affordable, it typically has a six-month limit on benefits. Health insurance for travelers also has strict restrictions on pre-existing conditions, and not all of the policies cover medical-evacuation costs or if they do, they have severe limits.

Health insurance for expatriates is designed for people who live and work overseas on temporary assignments or those who stay out of the country for extended periods, often years. Most expatriate health insurance policies are the same as plans offered in the states, except they offer enhanced benefit options to cover situations not typical of the United States. Most American health insurance plans do not cover extended trips outside of the country


For example, if you decide to live in a country where living conditions tend to be are harsh or challenging, say, Kenya or Laos, your health insurance premiums will cost more but your policy will likely cover anything that could happen while you are living there. One positive feature of expatriate health insurance is that policy holders do not have to stay within a specific network of doctors or healthcare providers. The coverage also helps policy holders with translation, cultural issues, and foreign currency exchange.

Expatriate health insurance is available through various international health insurance companies and brokers that can do the research for you and offer you policy options that fit the requirements and needs of the country to which you are moving. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns consumers that people looking for expatriate health insurance should be sure the policy they choose has adequate coverage for medical evacuation to the United States, especially if they are planning to live in an area that does not over good hospital care.

As with any health insurance policy, you should read the fine print to make sure there are no surprises later when you need to take advantage of the policy’s benefits or there is a medical emergency. Potential purchasers of expatriate health insurance should make a detailed list of the features they need and those they may safely do without.

Materials from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and are used in this report.