Comprehensive Global Medical Plans

Buying Comprehensive Global Health Insurance vs. Catastrophic Plans

Overseas Medical InsuranceOne of the most important decisions you will make when planning your move or extended stay abroad revolves around international health insurance. You will need to first decide whether or not you need to purchase health insurance (hint: the right answer for everyone is ‘YES, I need health insurance’). With that decision made, you will then need to choose the right policy for you and any loved ones traveling with you. You want to make sure you have the insurance coverage you need to protect you and your family when you need it.

How do I Choose the Right Global Health Insurance Policy?

There are many things that differentiate one health insurance policy from another, but a key difference is whether a health insurance plan is comprehensive or catastrophic. This article will describe comprehensive and catastrophic plans in order to help you make the most critical decisions as you go over the policies being offered.

When you hear the terms ‘catastrophic’ or ‘comprehensive’ in the description or title of a health insurance policy, you are hearing words that describe the scope of coverage that the health insurance policy in question provides. To better understand this, we must define the terms comprehensive and catastrophic, specifically in the context of international insurance plans.

What does the Term ‘Comprehensive Health Insurance’ Mean?

Comprehensive health insurance is what it says; It offers full or comprehensive coverage for all of your health needs. Not only will your comprehensive health insurance policy cover you for doctor’s visits when you are sick, but it will also cover you for many preventive and regular visits to maintain your health.

Comprehensive coverage is especially important for families with young children who require more frequent regular well-baby or well-child visits and regular screenings, as well as individuals or families who are planning on being out of their home country for over a year.

Recommended Comprehensive International Medical Plans:
Cigna GlobalLearn More  |  Free Quote / Apply – High Quality Plan, Best for Families and Seniors
IMG Global MedicalLearn More  |  Free Quote / Apply – Affordable / Best for Younger Clients

What Does the Term ‘Catastrophic Health Insurance’ Mean?

Catastrophic health insurance is what it sounds like; it covers you in the event of a catastrophe or, more specifically, in the event that something unexpected happens. For instance, if you are a healthy young person and you get an infection severe enough that it requires a trip to the doctor and a round of antibiotics, your catastrophic policy should cover you. However, if you are looking to have a routine eye exam even though you are having no specific concerns, it is unlikely that your catastrophic policy will cover you.

“Catastrophic” or Emergency Travel Medical Plans:
Patriot Travel MedicalLearn More  |  Free Quote / Apply
Blue Cross Travel InsuranceLearn More  |  Free Quote / Apply (for travel outside of the US)

What Does my Global Health Insurance Policy Cover?

Choosing between comprehensive and catastrophic coverage is a crucial decision point when you choose your health insurance policy. However, it is far from the only thing you need to consider in your choice. All policies, whether they offer comprehensive or catastrophic coverage, have different benefits and drawbacks. You must understand what these are before you make your choice.

Comprehensive plans should include:

  • Freedom to choose any hospital, clinic or doctor
  • 24 Hour Emergency Assistance and Medical Helpline
  • Emergency Evacuation, Repatriation, Hospitalization
  • In most cases, Home Country coverage is included
  • Choice of GBP, Euro and USD currencies for payment

Comprehensive plans may also offer additional benefits such as dental, vision, maternity, prescription drugs and other coverage options. Some of these are included in the base plan. Other times they are optional add ons that come with an additional premium. For example, the Cigna Global Medical Plan allows you to pick and choose various options (Wellness, Dental and Vision, etc) and benefits to design a plan that meets your specific needs.

Let’s look at two examples.

Jim is traveling to the South Pacific. He is young and adventurous and plans on cliff-diving, surfing, and whatever other adrenaline-filled opportunities come his way. He knows he wants comprehensive coverage because he is planning on staying for several years.

Jane is in her late fifties. She is also traveling to the same area, but she plans on reading and sipping fruity drinks in a shady spot on the beach. She is going on this trip for a few months to get out of the New England winters that aggravate her emphysema. She is thinking about purchasing a catastrophic health insurance policy.

Both Jim and Jane have selected what on the surface seems like the right policies for them. However, they must both be careful in looking over the details of their prospective policies. Among other things, Jim must ensure that his policy will cover him if he engages in what the underwriter (the company offering the insurance) considers risk-taking activities. Jane, on the other hand, must look into whether she will be covered if she develops any problems that the insurance company might consider related to her pre-existing conditions.

Are Co-pays and Deductibles Different if I Choose Comprehensive or Catastrophic Health Insurance?

Both comprehensive and catastrophic insurance policies may have co-pays or deductibles. In most instances, insurance pays for services and supplies as described in the policy paperwork, over a certain fixed pre-determined amount amount. This amount is called the deductible and this is what the insured must pay prior to the insurance coverage paying any additional costs. Some policies also have something called co-pays or coinsurance payments. This is a cost that must also come out of the insured’s pocket. The co-insurance is either a fixed amount or a percentage of the cost of services and supplies covered. (Read More at: About Co-pays and Deductibles). A higher deductible and/or co-pay amount will have the benefit of lowering your premium but comes with the risk that you will have to pay more out of pocket if you should need to seek treatment.

Typically, the deductibles vary and may be selected at the time of purchase. If you are healthy and relatively young, or if you are rarely sick, and you are prepared to gamble that you will not get sick or have an accident while traveling, a catastrophic plan with a high deductible might make sense for you. If you are living abroad for longer periods or are inclined to visit the doctors more frequently, then and comprehensive plan might make more sense. Make sure you are being honest with yourself in balancing this risk versus reward.

Premiums for Comprehensive and Catastrophic Health Insurance

Premiums for both types of plans are determined primarily by the age of the applicant, the deductibles selected and the length of time coverage is required. The costs of catastrophic plans are typically lower than the premium for a comprehensive policy. Further, many policies offer coverage including or excluding the US; choosing to exclude coverage in the US will lower your premium significantly.

Questions to Help you Determine Which Health Insurance Policy is Right for You

While you may be quoted a less-expensive premium for a catastrophic health insurance plan, there are many things to contemplate besides price when looking at this type of policy. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you even consider this type of health insurance policy for your extended travel abroad.

  • How many times a year do you get sick? If you make a trip or two to the doctor every year because of illness, you may not benefit from a catastrophic health insurance plan, and anyone with chronic conditions will likely not qualify for most policies.
  • What can you afford to cover out of pocket for medical expenses? If you choose a catastrophic policy with a high deductible, you will need to be able to afford that high deductible the moment you experience an illness or an accident. If this isn’t financially feasible, then this  isn’t the right insurance policy for you. (Remember, cost of medical treatment outside of the US is often lower than inside the US.)
  • How broad or flexible do you expect your insurance policy to be? ­Once you meet the deductible, a catastrophic health insurance plan will cover health care expenses due to emergency illness and accidents as deemed appropriate by the insurance company.

Out-of-country Comprehensive or Catastrophic Health Insurance

Make an informed decision. Whether you choose comprehensive or catastrophic health insurance for your extended travel or life abroad, it is important that you do your research and make an informed decision. Consider the health status of each individual to be insured, the activities you plan on doing, your lifestyle, the length of time you will be abroad, your financial situation, and the level of comfort you have with risk. Finally, make sure to ask questions and read the fine print so you understand exactly the terms of the policy you select..

Recommended Comprehensive International Medical Plans:
Cigna GlobalLearn More  |  Free Quote / Apply – High Quality Plan, Best for Families and Seniors
IMG Global MedicalLearn More  |  Free Quote / Apply – Affordable / Best for Younger Clients