Do I need to buy special insurance if I live abroad for several months?

By Insurance.com Posted : 01/01/2011

You should consider purchasing health insurance designed for expatriates. Standard American health insurance plans aren't designed to cover you for extended periods outside the country, and usually the networks of providers are based in local areas. A hospital network in Denver isn't going to be much use to you in London.

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Are you 65 or older? Don't count on Medicare when you're abroad. The federal health insurance plan does not cover health expenses outside the country.

If your stay will be limited, you might get the coverage you need through travel insurance. But travel insurance, which typically has a six-month limit on benefits, is not sufficient for an extended stay.

Expatriate health insurance

Expatriate insurance companies specialize in covering Americans living all over the world. The plans do not restrict you to a certain network of medical providers, the way many domestic health insurance plans do, and they include a variety of features from which to choose, including maternity coverage and specialty treatments, such as acupuncture.

If you'll be living in a remote area, look for a plan that provides evacuation coverage to pay for getting you to the nearest hospital in a medical emergency. Otherwise you could be stranded or pay out of pocket for transportation. Hiring a private plane in the far reaches of the world can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Expatriate insurance rates depend on your age, health condition, benefits in the plan and where you'll be living. You'll pay more if you live in a war zone than in a safer city.

It's best to purchase the policy here before you leave. Read the details before you buy to make sure you understand what the policy does and doesn't cover. Once you have a policy in place and you're ready to take off, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises to take with you the insurance policy identity card and a claim form.

For more, see Living abroad and your health insurance needs.

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