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International Health Insurance

What to Consider When Purchasing International Health Insurance

Navigating the international health insurance world can be tricky. It’s incredibly important to read your policy from beginning to end, making notes and asking questions to your insurance provider wherever necessary.

Almost all policies are individually tailored, so it’s best to read through with a good highlighter, look up terms you don’t understand and ask your insurer to make any changes you require. Below is a list of some of the more important terms to remember.


This is the procedure that the insurer goes through to determine if the client is insurable or not. The provider is under no obligation. Not everyone qualifies for all types of international health insurance. For instance, disability income insurance and critical illness insurance are quite strictly underwritten. At this stage, the insurer has all the power. However, once underwriting is complete and the policy is signed, only the insured may terminate the policy.

Pre-existing conditions

Any condition that exists before benefits go into effect will not be covered by a policy. It’s possible to be insured with a pre-existing condition, though premiums are usually higher. Compare international health insurance prices and the best policies.


If the insured has a specific illness or injury, it’s possible to be insured to the exclusion of this injury. For example, the insured may have residual pain from an old back injury, therefore treatment for it would not be covered.


Typical with medical expense insurance, this clause indicates the percentage portion of cost that the insured must pay, after the deductible. This percentage is usually 10%-30%. For major medical procedures, this can represent a lot of money.

Look for a policy with a coinsurance cap or stop-loss limit, usually about $2000-$3000 per year. After the insured pays out this amount of money, the full amount of treatment is paid by the insurer. Coinsurance is especially common with dental insurance, vision care and alternative treatments.


The insured is responsible for paying a fixed amount for each doctor visit. In some cases, copayment refers to coinsurance.

Out-of-pocket costs

This means the deductible, cost-sharing amounts or coinsurance, as well as any expenditures beyond what is considered “reasonable and customary” for the type of service, the definition of which varies between policies.

Waiting period

The waiting period or elimination period is the time between when an incident occurs and benefits are paid. Expenses are not usually paid during this time. The insured continues to pay premiums, but these are refunded when the policy pays out. Immediate payout is available, but premiums are generally higher.

Inflation protection rider

Sometimes called the “increasing amount”, disability income insurance is a contractually agreed-upon amount that benefits increase over time to compensate for the rising cost of living.

Remember, all plans can be customized with extra features. Shorter waiting periods and even return of premium are possible for a price. Also, consider that critical insurance and life insurance benefits are not taxed. Disability is an exception to this rule if the insured did not pay premiums personally (i.e. if premiums were covered by a company benefit plan).

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