May 18, 2024

Health Mettler Institute

Healthy LifeStyle & Education

Health Insurance for Expats

Health Insurance for Expats

Do I Need Health Insurance for Expats?

If you want help covering the costs of your medical expenses while living abroad then, yes, you’ll need international health insurance for expats. It may also be required by the government of your destination country. For example, Portugal requires expats to carry valid health insurance that covers necessary medical expenses such as urgent care and repatriation.

While it’s not always required, expat health coverage is usually a good idea. It helps to ensure that you can get quality medical attention in a variety of scenarios at an affordable price. For example, in the unfortunate case that you’re involved in a serious car accident and need emergency care, it will often help to cover the costs of your hospital stay, any required surgeries, rehabilitation, and repatriation (if necessary). 

Further, if you were to develop a serious illness like cancer, health insurance can help to cover the costs of chemotherapy or radiation therapy, specialist visits, lab tests, and other care you would need. 


What Is Health Insurance for Expats?

Health insurance for expats refers to the health insurance plans that help cover the costs of medical services abroad (and in the U.S., for some plans). It’s comparable to the coverage you would have from a health insurance provider in the U.S.—you can access emergency assistance, private hospitals, doctors, nurses, and prescription medications in foreign countries, and your insurance will help to cover the costs, in many cases. 

Note that expatriate health insurance is different from travel insurance. Travel insurance is designed for people taking shorter-term trips versus living abroad long-term. 

How Does Health Insurance for Expats Work? 

Here’s a look at the cornerstones of expat health insurance from policy limits and coverage areas to pricing. 

Maximum Limits

Each plan will have a maximum annual plan benefit which is the most the plan will pay out during the annual policy period. Additionally, the plans often have dollar limits on specific benefits (e.g. rehabilitation treatment, nursing at home, and accidental death). These limits may be on a “per event” or “per year” basis. 

Some insurance providers do offer unlimited coverage, although it’s more of an exception than the rule.  

Beyond the policy dollar limits, the benefits included in expat health insurance policies will vary. For example, a higher-tier plan may cover preventative care while a lower-tier one doesn’t. Further, some insurers may cover vision care while others don’t. The availability of add-on plans like outpatient, maternity, and dental coverage can also vary depending on the provider, policy, and applicant. 

Coverage Areas

Insurers may offer various coverage area options. For example, Allianz Care offers worldwide coverage plus worldwide coverage excluding the U.S. and coverage for Africa only. The coverage area you choose will impact your pricing. 

Costs

Once you find the expat health insurance policy with the right benefits and coverage for your situation, a quote can help you understand the costs. When reviewing quotes, look for the annual and monthly premium prices, deductible options, annual plan limit, and coinsurance or copays that will apply. You can often choose a deductible amount which will lower your premium.

Medical Providers

When it comes to medical providers and facilities, expat health insurers typically have established networks. When you use providers from your insurer’s network, it often comes with perks like seamless billing. That said, most companies will let you choose any medical provider you want as long as they’re licensed and operate in a covered country.

Billing

The way your insurer covers your bills can vary. In some cases, you’ll be required to pay the medical provider upfront and submit the bill to your insurer to get reimbursed. In other cases, you may need to notify your insurer about a medical service before your appointment so they can coordinate with the medical provider and settle the bill directly. 

You may need to give your insurer a specific amount of notice to get a bill covered upfront—such as five days notice before seeking care. 

The specifics of expat health insurance plans can vary greatly from one provider to the next. While the common terms and conditions have been covered here, be sure to read the fine print from the companies you consider. 

What Does Health Insurance for Expats Cover?

The coverage provided through health insurance for expats varies from one provider to the next. However, all the plans we reviewed included inpatient services—care that requires you to be admitted and spend at least one night at a hospital or other type of medical facility. Beyond that, insurers vary in their offerings of benefits like outpatient care, preventative care, vision, dental, maternity care, life insurance, and more. Some offer multiple plans with varying levels of benefits, while others offer base plans with add-on coverage packages. 


Health Insurance for Expats Cost

Costs for expatriate health insurance (without U.S. coverage) are most influenced by your age and level of coverage. To give an idea of how costs vary, we collected quotes for both 35- and 65-year-old U.S. residents living in Mexico. 

35-Year-Old Expat

Monthly premiums ranged from $179 per month up to $476 per month for a 35-year old U.S. resident living in Mexico, based on our research. But cost can swing widely depending on the features you choose. 

For example, the Allianz basic plan (Care Core) costs $179 per month for a 35-year-old and has an annual maximum benefit of $2,500,000. On the other hand, an Elite Xplorer Essential plan from GeoBlue costs up to $476 per month, but has an unlimited annual maximum benefit and covers emergency outpatient care (the Care Core plan from Allianz does not). Both plans have a $0 deductible. 

You may also choose to increase your benefits by adding coverage. Allianz priced add-on coverages as follows:

  • Maternity coverage: From $66 per month
  • Outpatient coverage: From $106 per month
  • Dental plans: From $76 per month
  • Repatriation plans: From $11 per month

65-Year-Old Expat

If you’re a 65-year-old U.S. resident moving to Mexico, Allianz Care’s plans start at $583 per month with a $0 deductible and 2.5 million annual maximum benefit. An Elite Explorer Essential plan from GeoBlue costs up to $2,312 per month. It also has a $0 deductible, but provides an unlimited annual benefit and covers emergency outpatient care. Prices are precipitously more expensive the older you are because insurance companies expect you to more frequently use your plan. 

Allianz priced add-on coverages for a 65-year-old as follows:

  • Maternity coverage: Not available
  • Outpatient coverage: From $308 per month
  • Dental plans: From $76 per month
  • Repatriation plans: From $11 per month


Popular Health Insurance Companies for Expats

Now, let’s take a look at some of the most popular health insurance companies for expats. 

Insurance Companies Insurance Marketplaces
Azimuth Meridian International Citizens Marketplace
William Russell   
Trawick International   
Safety Wing   
NOW Health International   
Seven Corners Liason Majestic   
AXA Global Healthcare   
Bupa Global   
A Plus International   
AIA Group   
Now Health International   
Expacare Global Healthcare   
Integra Global   

Frequently Asked Questions

  • The cost of expat health insurance can vary greatly depending on your age, coverage area, benefits, deductible amount, and maximum limits. In our research, the monthly premium costs for plans with a $0 deductible ranged from $197 to $904.

  • Yes, you can get U.S. health insurance if you live abroad. Many expat insurance providers offer coverage in the U.S. as well as in foreign countries. However, when plans include coverage in the U.S., they are more expensive.

  • Expats are not required to carry U.S. health insurance. While it was previously mandatory for Americans who spent at least 36 days in the U.S. during a given calendar year, that requirement ended in 2018.

  • Expat health insurance can help to cover the costs of medical services in foreign countries. It often covers inpatient care including hospital stays, physician visits, surgeries, lab tests, physical therapy, transplants, and more. Additionally, some insurers offer coverage for outpatient care, preventative care, dental, vision, and more.