Moving abroad, far away from your home country, creates remarkable opportunities for learning and personal growth. It is because of this that many people choose to travel for longer than the average week or 14 day vacation. The opportunity to immerse oneself in a different culture, way of life and perhaps learn a different language can, however, come with challenges.
When living abroad for a period of six months, to a year or more, there are many steps that should be taken to plan and prepare a safe journey ahead of time. Properly preparing will mean you are not left scrambling, panicking or frustrated during what could be a stressful event. One of your top priorities should be a good international health insurance plan. Below are some considerations for when to apply, and what else you need to do to prepare…
When to Apply for International Health Insurance
To be eligible for global health insurance, you must be planning to reside outside of your home country on or before the effective date of your plan (with some exceptions), which is why it is important to start your research early for coverage. Most plans will require that you apply 30 to 45 days prior to departure date. This application time is necessary for the approval process of the insuring company as well as validation of your health condition and any pre-existing conditions. Keep in mind that if you decide to apply earlier or to move the effective date to another time, you may need to provide an updated health declaration and new information from your health care provider to ensure that there is no new health condition that was not included in the initial application.
Living abroad promises exciting challenges and a good preparation ahead of time will allow for an easy transition in your host country. With Global Medical Insurance, you can start your new life overseas with increased confidence and peace of mind. Our insurance experts work with multiple carriers and can assist you in finding the insurance plan that will best fit your needs.
Compare Global Medical Insurance Plans
When planning to live or reside abroad for an extended period of time (a year or more), whether for work or leisure, start with comparing global medical insurance plans. This process can start as early as a year prior to your departure. Global medical insurance is a guaranteed way to protect yourself should you require medical care and assistance.
It is best to work with a licensed international insurance broker who can walk you through the pros and cons of various plans to find the best plan for your specific needs. There are no additional costs for working with a broker, just an added level of service with an experienced professional who is looking after your needs.
Before investing in a global medical insurance plan, make sure it is the right plan for you by assessing the different options available and asking the right questions, such as:
- Is 24-hour emergency assistance available?
- Will you have access to the hospital and doctor of your choice?
- Are pre-existing conditions covered?
- Are direct bill payments and cash advance available for medical costs?
Ensure your insurance plan covers both general heath care visits and prescription medicines. Emergency evacuation, hospitalization and repatriation are also essential coverage benefits should a medical emergency situation arise while away. Some insurance plans will cover transportation costs to the nearest adequate medical facility or transportation to a hospital back home.
Additional coverage options for vision, dental, maternity and extreme sports may be included in some plans or can be added to your plan for an extra premium. It is important to consider the coverage options that are right for you, based on your situation and planned activities. All plans have exclusions and it is very valuable to review and understand the various limitations of your insurance plan.
Some additional considerations and preparation…
Update Immunizations and Prescriptions
Schedule an appointment with your health care provider to ensure all your routine vaccinations are up to date and to obtain a detailed health assessment. Special vaccination and preventive medication may be required in your host country.
Don’t wait too long to make an appointment as immunization sometimes require multiple shots over a period of one to six months. It is also important to share your planned activities with your doctor to benefit from relevant health recommendations and advice.
It is also recommended to have vision and dental check ups before leaving as this is not usually covered by basic health plans and there is likely a waiting period before the coverage becomes effective. For example, dental coverage can have a three to 24 months waiting period depending on the insurance plan.
If you have any pre-existing condition requiring prescription medicine, make sure to carry double the amount of your medication should you not be able to refill your prescription at the local pharmacy. It is pertinent to carry at least two copies of your prescription containing the generic and brand name of the medication.
Remember, being informed is the key to being well prepared; consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website to inquire on the health conditions and standards of medical care of the host country and pay special attention to health warnings.
Secure Important Documents
Ensure your passport is valid for a minimum duration of six months after your planned return date.
It is also a good idea to leave copies of important medical and travel documents with a family member or friend at home and to save electronic copies that will be accessible in the event your documents are lost or stolen. Always carry copies of your health insurance documents with you along with an emergency contact card with the coordinates of the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
If you will be driving abroad, it is important to update your driver’s license and apply for an International Driving Permit (IDP) ahead of time. An IDP is a valid form of identification in many countries with photo, name and driver’s license information. A valid driver’s license and two passport pictures are required for the application along with a $20 USD permit fee.
Open an International Bank Account
The first step to efficient banking outside of your home country is to let your home banking institution know where you are going and how long you will be out of the country. This will prevent you from having a hold on your cards or potential fraud. You should also consider using online banking and signing up for electronic bills, so you can access your payment and banking information from anywhere in the world.
You should also consider opening a foreign bank account. It is a good idea to keep your home banking account and to make online transfers to your foreign account. A transaction fee is usually applicable for each transaction; making bigger transfers less often will help you keep these fees to a minimum. Additionally, in the unfortunate event of fraud, your home account assets will be safe.
It is possible to avoid paying ATM fees by choosing a bank that is part of the Global ATM Network. The Global ATM Network consists of a large network of banking institutions that offer free ATM withdrawals when using partner ATMs.
In addition to the above mentioned planning steps, the following few banking tips will make exchange rate fees manageable while outside of the country:
- Choose a credit card with no foreign transaction fee.
- Only use ATM at a major bank.
- Avoid changing money at the airport.
- Always pick the local currency for credit card purchases.
Plan Ahead When Applying For International Health Insurance
The best advice we can offer is to start early and be prepared when applying for your global health insurance. Start researching your international health plans today.
If you need assistance choosing a global medical insurance company, our international health insurance consultants are available to walk you through the process, explain the differences among providers and help you apply. Contact us today for a free quote.