Tips for Accessing Health Insurance Abroad
Those choosing to live abroad know buying international health insurance is one of the priorities you want to check off your to-do list. Assuming that you have already purchased a plan, here are some tips to guide you should need to using your coverage.
Make Sure You Have the Right Health Plan in Place Before leaving Home
One of the most important factors determining the type and level of care you will receive is buying the right plan for your specific needs. If you are living abroad, you should purchase a comprehensive international medical plan that will cover inpatient, outpatient, emergency evacuation, repatriation, and medical transportation costs. Consider optional benefits like vision and dental if those benefits are important to you. Many people find that they did not buy the right plan or enough coverage once they need coverage for an illness or sickness. Do your research and make sure the plan you buy covers your specific needs.
Start with selecting the plan type that you need. Here are the primary options to choose from:
Recommended International Health Plans
- William Russell plans cover you internationally, both in the country you reside in and wherever you are traveling to (addons required for USA)
- Their network includes 40,000 hospitals around the world.
- Plans have comprehensive cancer coverage, including genome testing.
- The flexibility to tailor a plan to suit your individual needs
- Access to Cigna Global’s trusted network of hospitals and doctors
- The convenience and confidence of 24/7/365 customer service
- Premium Benefits, Coverage and Service
- Define your deductible and prescription benefits
- For Foreigners in the US or US citizens abroad
What to Do When you Get Sick or Injured
If you should need medical care, your insurance company is there for you. You will have an emergency medical hotline on your insurance card that you can call to get help finding a doctor or hospital to treat your condition. The insurance company can direct you to care providers who speak your language, have met their standard of care guidelines, and can be billed directly (so you don’t have to pay out of pocket). If there is an emergency, you should go directly to the hospital and have the emergency treated. Once you are stable, you should contact the insurance company immediately to let them know your status, and they can guide you on any additional steps that need to be taken from that point on.
Related: Finding a Doctor Abroad
Wellness Care, Vaccinations, and Routine Checkups
The best use of your global medical plan is to take care of you before you get sick to prevent any illnesses before they happen. Depending on your coverage, you will have access to wellness care and preventative services, including annual physicals and vaccinations. Some plans also include medical screening, blood work, and other medical tests to help you identify and avoid any illnesses before they become serious. Most insurers encourage preventative care as the cost of preventive healthcare at private medical facilities is usually expensive as well. However, you need to purchase a plan that includes these services as part of your overall plan in order to access these benefits. Again, review coverage before you buy and contact your health insurer before being treated or accessing care.
Communicate with Insurance Company Plan Administrators
Should you need to use your international health insurance, make sure you have your plan documents on hand and readily available. Health care providers are much more likely to provide you with care if you can show confirmation that you have insurance to cover the costs. At a minimum, carry your insurance cards with you at all times. It is highly recommended that you also have the 24-hour emergency assistance hotline provided by your insurance company. This number is to be used for emergency situations when you need to find a doctor, have a question clarified or pre-notify your insurance company for treatment. Always call your insurance company before receiving treatment – when possible. They have experts in international medical care trained for situations like these and rely on their expertise to help you get through a tough time. If you are not able to call right away, call as soon as possible to notify the insurance company of potential claims. If you find yourself in a complicated situation, it is also good to have correspondence in writing. Documenting your communication with doctors and the insurance company in writing will limit potential misunderstandings and confusion in the future. If you find yourself dealing with an incident over the phone, make it a point to request the name of whom you are speaking with and a direct extension. This way you can contact the individual you were previously working with.
Choose a Medical Center and Physicians Within Your Provider Network
In the event of an unexpected medical incident, most people do not have the time to research which in-network doctor they need to be seeing. You may find that there is a medical center conveniently located near your home or office. However, using a healthcare provider out of your insurance company’s network may result in increased fees and delayed payment of claims. The advantage of going to a facility within a network is that your provider (doctor) can bill the insurance company directly (The insurance company pays the provider). Otherwise, you would have to pay the provider yourself (out of your pocket). When you pay out of your pocket, you can submit a claim to the insurance company later, but it will take some time for you to be reimbursed, especially if the medical documents have to be translated. As soon as you have settled into your new home, we recommend that you take the time to research which doctors, clinics, and centers have a partnership with your insurer. When you have time to do this leisurely, it is a simple process and easier to tackle if a language barrier is involved. Since most insurance companies provide an online directory of their network domestically and internationally.
Pre-Certification of Medical Benefits
In some cases, typically before you are admitted to a hospital or undergo major surgery, you will get certain expenses approved by the insurance company. This process is called pre-certification. It is to your benefit, and to the benefit of the insurance company, to work together to get pre-certified before you incur major expenses.
Keep All Bills, Records, and Documents
Should you need medical care abroad, make sure you record and document everything. You want to have all the records you can get for both your personal medical history but also for potential claims you might have to fill with your insurer. Specifically, make sure you ask for and receive an explanation of diagnosis from your doctor or a “Physician’s Statement.” It is imperative that you request some form or receipt for any treatment that you receive. This can often become an issue if you are asked to pay up front and then later try to request a refund or reimbursement. If there is no documentation, the insurance company will not have a way to verify that the payment was made.
Filing a Claim with Your International Insurance Company
If you have received medical care and have paid out of pocket, meaning your insurance company did not cover the costs for your care, then you can file a claim with the insurer to be reimbursed. Insurance companies will have a specific procedure which you must follow in order for your claim to be paid. The most important thing you can do is notify your insurer as early as possible and file a claim early while you are still eligible. Some insurers have a limit on the amount of time that has passed during which you can file a claim.
To file a claim, request guidance from the insurer on the best way to proceed. Most companies have an online process allowing you to upload a claim request for and all supporting documents. You can also download forms and send them in via mail but this is often slower and requires more work. Filing your claim online also have the benefit of allowing you and the insurer to better manage and monitor the process of the claim. After the claim has been filed, keep in touch with the insurer to make sure no additional information is needed.
Claim Filing – Make Sure Information Is Accurate
Surprisingly, one of the most frequent problems with filing a claim is that the documentation of the medical expense does not have the correct name of the person filing the claim. This may happen because of language and cultural differences, but it is something to watch out for. Make sure documentation of your expenses has your name on it and, if possible, your insurance policy number. It is important to tie the medical expenses to you personally as best you can.
Related: How Do International Claims Work
Working with Your International Health Insurance Carrier
Not all insurance companies work the same. However, they will work with you to ensure your health is taken care of. It is helpful to understand that each insurer has different processes, coverage options, and plans. Buying the right plan is your responsibility. From there, we encourage you to use their resources and support team to get the most out of the plan you buy. If you work with one of our agents, they can also help guide you in this process – from picking the right plan to getting your claims paid. Request a Quote today and one of our agents will be in touch with recommendations based on where you are from and where you will be living.
- Choosing the Best Expatriate Health Insurance Plan
- Which Are the Best International Health Insurance Companies
- Health Insurance When Working Abroad
- Finding a Pediatrician Before Moving Abroad