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Do US expats need access to US healthcare in their international health plan?

More and more US nationals are working abroad than ever before, as US citizens embrace the expat lifestyle and build their homes in a different country.

Living abroad is great. However, there are going to be occasions, like Christmas, Thanksgiving or vacations, where US expats will want to come home to the States for period of time. Therefore, one decision that every US expat will need to make is whether to include access to US healthcare in their international health plan.

US healthcare

Generally, international health plans are designed to provide health cover while you’re away, but not necessarily at home. Worldwide and US coverage is usually separated by most providers, as the cost of healthcare in the Unites States can be so expensive.

But is it necessary to include the US in your plan and what elements do you need to consider before making this decision?

Key considerations

1. Costs
The first thing to consider is the cost of getting cover in the US. Yes, including United States in your plan will significantly increase your premium. However, the cost of not being insured, and needing treatment while there, could be higher. When getting a quote for your plan, calculate the difference between including and excluding US coverage to get an idea of how much it adds on.

2. Frequency of visits
You also need to consider the likelihood that you will use your policy in the US. If you’re unlikely to come back to the US during your annual policy, then consider if it’s important to you to include US protection in your plan. However. if you regularly visit home, either to see friends and family, or for the holidays, you should be insured in case any health issues occur during your visit.

3. Current health cover
If you are already on a local health plan in the US, you need to review whether it’s worth doubling up on your cover. Local plans are specifically designed to cover US nationals in the US. So if you’re already on a plan, you probably won’t need to add the US onto your international plan.

4. Ongoing health issues
Another consideration should be your health history. If you’ve had any health issues in the past that required ongoing treatment or support, it could affect whether you’ll need healthcare while back in the US. If the treatment for the condition is expensive or time-sensitive, then having US protection will give you peace of mind. That said, you shouldn’t rely on an international plan to cover all your needs in the US. The possibility of the need to return home on a permanent basis for a medical condition requires careful consideration on your part.

5. Comprehensive benefits
Lastly, it’s worth thinking about how comprehensive you’d like your plan to be. You might be able to cover certain elements of your health with other forms of insurance. However, these won’t necessarily provide the comprehensive cover and benefits that comes with a full health plan.

Other options

If you decide to get an international health plan that doesn’t include access to US healthcare, but would like to visit the US, you do have a couple of options available to you.

Firstly, you can purchase temporary health insurance, which provides short-term access to health cover in the US. While these plans might provide you with most of the health benefits you need, they are generally quite expensive and less comprehensive than annual plans.

Temporary health insurance plans can last between one to six months and mostly insure you for doctors visits, emergency services and hospitalization benefits. Pre-existing conditions are rarely covered.

You can also purchase travel insurance as a temporary solution. Travel insurance provides you with short-term access to some aspects of health cover in the US, including emergency medical treatment. In contrast to health insurance, travel insurance is generally very cheap, but provides little protection for longer-term health needs. And travel insurance often excludes current medical conditions or provides very limited cover for such. Hence, it’s important to understand for what you are precisely covered under the travel insurance policy.

Making a decision

Most international health providers don’t allow you to upgrade or add US cover to your policy mid-term, so ensure that you have fully considered your options before making a decision. Upgrading to US cover can also trigger a new underwriting event. Get clear on these matters before deciding on what geographical cover you require.

Whatever your situation, it’s important to bear in mind that healthcare in the United States is extremely expensive and anyone spending even a short period of time in the country should be insured in one form or another, or risk exposure to large out-of-pocket expenses for healthcare.

To find out how much an Integra Global international health plan would cost you, with and without access to US cover, get an indicative price by clicking here.

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