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International Medical Insurance Options

One of my good friends has an opportunity to work on a client engagement in London, England, and started asking me about international medical insurance options for his ladyfriend. He will have medical insurance through his employer but his ladyfriend, if she chooses to live in England while he’s on this half-year engagement, will not have any medical insurance because they aren’t married and because she’ll have left her job. So, in chatting it up with him, the question of international medical insurance came up and he asked if I, in my infinite wisdom, could do a little research on his behalf and maybe write about it.

International medical insurance, or travel medical insurance, is pretty straightforward in terms of its offering and I was surprised at how cheap it was. The first step though is to see if you qualify for an ISIC Card [3] because it gives you access to discounts and some supplemental insurance. Also, they recommend that you purchase travel insurance [4] because it often includes some basic medical and accident coverage. If you are “a full-time student, a teacher or are under 26 years old,” then you’re eligible for the card.

Now, onto the insurance…

Abroad-Only Coverage vs. Both

Abroad-only coverage means that you only have medical insurance coverage outside the United States. The Both option refers to medical coverage in the United States and abroad. The advantage of Abroad-only coverage is in cost because medical services abroad are often cheaper and Abroad-only coverage doesn’t not let you return to the United States for treatment. The advantage of both Abroad and Domestic coverage is that you can always return to the US to receive treatment though the coverage will always be more expensive than abroad only. One significant disadvantage of Abroad-only coverage is that it will not cover pre-existing conditions.

Abroad-Only Insurance Providers

If you already have insurance, the best option is to talk to your provider to see if they offer international coverage. If they don’t (or if you just want to review your options, there are several international insurance providers that cater to the travel and study abroad demographic. If you want the “both” option, your best bet is to use an insurance search engine to get a few names of US insurers and call them up for more information.

Cultural Insurance Services International [5] – This program covers study abroad candidates with affordable temporary health insurance. My friend will not be studying abroad, which is one of the requirements, but if you are, this is certainly a reputable site references by many universities. (Highway to Health, Inc. [6] is another well-regarded student insurance provider)

Gateway Plans [7] – This is a more comprehensive medical insurance provider that isn’t restricted to only students studying abroad. In fact, Gateway offers plans for US citizens traveling abroad, internationals traveling to the US, and almost everything else in between. For my friend traveling to the UK, she’ll likely want the Gateway International plan. The Gateway International plans will cover you for a minimum of 15 days to a maximum of 180, or six months. The plan rates [8] seems pretty straightforward, with $100,000 of coverage for only $4 a day. (Wallach & Company, Inc. [9] is another well-regarded insurance provider)

Does anyone have any first-hand experience dealing with travel medical insurance or something similar? I’m afraid I’ve never actually purchased any so my research is based solely on Google and numerous university study abroad websites, nothing beats first hand.