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Do I Need International Health Insurance?

By L. Hautzinger
Updated May 17, 2024
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International health insurance is a good option for many people traveling internationally, because many medical insurance plans do not provide coverage outside of their national area. Prior to purchasing an international health insurance policy, check with your health insurance provider to confirm that your current coverage will not cover international healthcare costs. If your policy does provide coverage, you should confirm how your benefit caps and deductibles will apply to international travel. If your current medical coverage does not provide for international travel, then you should consider purchasing a supplemental, short-term policy for your trip.

There are many short-term health insurance policies that can cover international travel. This additional coverage is supplemental and often covers what a primary insurance policy does not cover. Many of these policies are available for purchase from travel agents or private companies, and they can provide coverage of all medical expenses incurred overseas, including emergency services, preventative care and medical evaluation depending on the type of policy.

Many private companies offer short-term international policies and will base the premium amount on the duration of their trip and the type of coverage needed. Additionally, many preexisting medical conditions are covered under travel medical insurance, depending on recently the traveler has been treated for that condition. Consumers should check their international health insurance policy to be sure that it covers such conditions prior to purchase. Also, consumers who travel internationally quite often might want to consider purchasing an annual international health insurance policy to save money. These policies could save significant money if someone travels internationally more than three times per year.

For students traveling abroad, student travel insurance might be good option. Many schools or organized student programs provide this type of international health insurance for a small fee. This policy often only covers emergency medical expenses, however, and would not cover preventative care or medical evaluations.

When shopping for international health insurance, travelers should carefully compare policies, prices and providers to be sure they are purchasing the adequate coverage for their healthcare needs. Also, some countries require that travelers purchase local insurance or that the insurance company providing international coverage is authorized to be used in their country. Prior to purchasing any short-term policy, consumers should check each host country's health insurance requirements. Additionally, travelers who are visiting an at-risk country should confirm that their medical insurance will be honored in that country.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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