Photo from Unsplash

Originally Posted On:

At its best, living abroad is incredible. But, it can be extra challenging when things go wrong. The right Expat Health Insurance means when you or your family need healthcare, you can get the best treatment and support. But what does Expat health insurance cost?

The right policy shouldn’t cost the earth. Importantly, you’ll need to choose the right cover type. Expat health insurance has some crucial differences to local health cover and travel insurance; don’t worry – we’ll help you find the perfect policy.


Three types of health insurance

Many people have the same question when searching for health insurance. What is the difference between:

  • Expat Health Insurance
  • Local Private Health Cover
  • Travel Cover

While individual policies may differ, here’s a guide to the general offerings. We’ve also summarized the difference between Expat, local and travel insurance in the table below for a quick guide.

Expat Health Insurance

Expat policies are aimed at those living abroad. The policy should cover all your medical expenses for both long-term and emergency treatment. The policy should also have the flexibility to cover all areas, including dental, eye health, maternity, and care of chronic conditions.

There should also be flexibility in where you receive your care. It can include being repatriated to your home or another country for treatment.

You can also be covered regardless of where you are in the world. And being at home, recreational travel, and business travel can all be covered by a single policy.

Importantly, your cover (with benefits) travels with you where ever you go. This means that you’ll have less exposure to pre-existing condition price hikes, and you’ll hold onto no-claims bonuses if you move abroad again.

Many companies also offer support and advice in your language. With some, this extends to Expat Assistance Programs that cover a wide range of well-being issues. I love living in Spain, but the ability to talk to qualified professionals in English is a real comfort.

You’ll need to be a “qualified expatriate” to qualify for an expatriate health plan. Generally, this means that you live outside of your home nation for at least 180 days per year of cover. However, you’ll need to check the specific requirement for your situation when you are taking out cover.

NOTE: This type of cover may also be called overseas health insurance or international health insurance.

Our recommendations for Expat Health Insurance

We recommend two companies if you are looking for quality cover at an excellent price point.

Cigna Global is an American company with access to medical support in over 200 countries and territories. They provide 24/7 access to multi-lingual service centers and flexible plans are depending on your needs and budget. The Customer testimonials from our clients are excellent!


International Insurance offers a global brokerage service. They assess your needs and suggest the best company and policy for your needs. The policy often costs less than going direct to the insurer. They work with a range of large and small companies, both global and regional. Our clients report significant savings and excellent service!


Local Health insurance

Local health covers much the same healthcare areas as Expat health insurance.

However, you are only covered in the country where you took the policy. And, if you do need care, you may not be able to select where you receive treatment.

And, these medical insurance policies will often only (but not always) provide advice, support, and care in the local language.

If you move to a new country, you’ll need to find a new provider and take out a new policy.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance covers you when you are away from your regular place of residence. This means if you are going on holiday or a short term visit to overseas. Generally, professional and work travel is not covered.

You’ll only be covered for emergency treatment that cannot wait until you return home.

You can also cover non-health-related expenses like cancellations and theft while you are away.

Comparison of Expat vs. Local vs. Travel Insurance

Expat Health Insurance Local Health Insurance Travel Insurance
Emergency Care Yes Yes Yes
Check-ups (Dental, optical, annual physical etc) Yes Yes No
Preventative healthcare (annual physical etc) Yes Yes No
Treatment in any country Yes No No
Maternity Cover Yes Yes No
Treatment of chronic conditions Yes Yes No
Ongoing treatments of serious illness  Yes Yes No
Non-urgent care  Yes Yes No
Repatriation for care  Yes No Yes
Pre-existing conditions Yes Yes No
Accepted for visas and residence permits Yes Yes No
Cover if you move to a new country Yes No No
Global Cover Yes No No
Cover if you move home Yes No No
Long-term contracts  Yes Yes No
Unlimited time abroad  Yes No No
Cover for business travel Yes No No
Support in your choice of language Yes Maybe Yes
Expat Assistance Programs Yes No No
Travel related expenses No No Yes


Why do you need overseas health insurance?

The ability to access quality healthcare in your new country

Healthcare delivery varies hugely around the world. In most countries, as an Expat, you’ll be expected to pay for your medical expenses. If you don’t have adequate cover, this can be very expensive.

Many countries, such as Spain or Hong Kong, provide free and efficient healthcare to all their citizens. If your new country is one of the countries that offer free or low-cost healthcare, you may have adequate cover from the public system.

However, as an Expat, you are often not entitled to use the healthcare system unless you make social security payments.

And, if you are accessing public treatment, the waiting times can be much longer than in private care. For non-essential procedures, the amount of time maybe even longer.

Visas and residence permits can require you to have private healthcare

In many countries, comprehensive Expat health insurance is a residency requirement. And, you’ll need to show cover for your whole family. In some countries, it must be comprehensive cover with no co-payments. This ensures that the country’s healthcare system is not overburdened.

Popular immigration programs like Spain’s non-lucrative visa and Portugal’s D7 Passive Income visa have this requirement.

If you need cover for your immigration application, make sure the policy you select has the appropriate cover to meet the requirements. A good immigration lawyer will be able to advise you.

Public healthcare might not cover the services you need

Many Expats take out private health cover in addition to the local healthcare to cover additional eventualities.

Dental, optical, and other services are often excluded from public health services. These specialties can be expensive; you want to ensure you budget if you don’t have cover.

You need health insurance cover in more than one country

Overseas health insurance offers a personalized plan that allows you to live abroad and travel without gaps in your health cover. Moreover, it can save you the hassle of taking out a travel policy and dealing with paperwork every time you travel. You may need to opt for overseas health insurance for Expats if you:

  • are worried about the standard healthcare in your new country of residence.
  • are planning to visit home often.
  • travel a lot.
  • may relocate or travel on short notice.
  • don’t speak the language of your country of residence.
  • would like to include additional services.
  • are a digital nomad.

If you pick the right policy at the start, you can keep it as you get older. And, that means that you won’t need to declare pre-existing conditions each time you sign up for a new policy.

How much does Expat health insurance cost?

The pricing of an overseas health plan ranges from hundreds to thousands of dollars annually. The price depends on several factors, such as the type of cover, the payment method, and your medical profile.

Most insurers offer policies for three geographical regions.

  • Europe and the EU
  • Worldwide (excluding the USA)
  • Worldwide (including the USA)

The latter is the most expensive due to the high cost of healthcare in the States.

The payment method can also affect your bill. Paying the annual policy in a lump sum is usually cheaper than a series of payments. Sometimes choosing a single payment option can make a significant difference to your annual fee.

Jump to an easy money-saving quote for Expat Insurance

Age and your medical history can also affect the price of your cover. Check to make sure that you are covered without big increases as you get older. It is important that you are aware of any such automatic changes in your plan.

Pre-existing conditions

Your medical history refers to any pre-existing medical conditions or pre-existing chronic illnesses. The more health issues you suffer from, the higher the chance you will need medical treatment, implying higher healthcare costs.

Although not all companies cover all pre-existing conditions, many providers have updated their policies on this matter. This change is positive. In any case, experts recommend that you highlight any health conditions or chronic illnesses in your application. This transparency will ensure that you don’t have issues with rejected claims in the future.

To receive an accurate estimate for your requirements, we advise you to request quotes from a wide range of companies. Carefully compare their services, inclusions, exclusions, and price. From there, you can decide on the provider that best fits your needs and budget.

How does international health insurance work?

Most basic packages include:

  • hospitalization
  • surgery
  • emergency dental care
  • emergency outpatient benefits
  • cancer treatment
  • Expat Assistance Program (EAP)

International insurance should allow you to tailor the coverage to your needs and lifestyle. What your plan covers depends on you. There are many extra services you can add to your package and personalize it. Some of the most popular are dental and eye care, maternity cover, and physiotherapy.

Once you’ve selected your cover, you can choose which regions or countries to include in your policy.

How to choose the best international health insurance for you

First, understand the things that matter to you in choosing a policy.

The basics

  • How long will you need cover?
  • Which countries and regions do you need cover in?
  • What services, treatments, and options are important to you and your family?
  • What is your budget?
  • Does your visa or residency permit have any specific requirements?

Once you have that clear, consider some other aspects of the choice.

Choice of treatment and physician

How do you go about getting treatment? Can you pick the healthcare professional who you see?

And, can you access various modes of care, like telehealth and video consultations?

Having this level of control can be very reassuring but can increase costs.

Visiting home

If you intend to visit your home country often or for long periods, make sure you include home coverage with your plan. Some companies cover your home visits only for a limited time (usually two weeks).


Make sure you know the claim process your insurers require. Some ask for an application form to be completed, while the original bill is enough for others. In some cases, your insurer pays the hospital or doctor directly. In others, you may need to pay your medical bills yourself and then apply for reimbursement.

For instance, most insurers require you to contact them before any doctor appointment or scheduled hospitalization. They usually have a list of selected doctors and hospitals you can choose from for treatment.

A failure to contact your insurance company in time may lead to them not paying your medical bills in full. It is essential to be aware of the claim process from the beginning to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Medical evacuation

Don’t forget to keep your lifestyle in mind while studying your policy. If you are an adventure traveler who visits remote places and developing countries, we recommend that you include medical evacuation in your plan.

Expat Health Insurance means you can stay safe when things go wrong

Expat Health Insurance for Students

Is student health insurance different from regular Expat insurance? Not really. But, overseas student policies can be more tailored to students’ needs and lifestyles. If you are on a Student Visa, this may be an option to consider.

Some companies offer competitive student plans with additional useful features including:

  • Easy digital access.
  • Repatriation.
  • Travel security services.

If these features are important to you, then a student policy may be the best international health insurance for you.

Expat Health Insurance for Retirees

Retirees will have many of the same considerations when choosing a policy. You may need to pay even more attention to things like pre-existing conditions and exclusions.

There can be increased medical costs as we get older. For those looking to retire abroad, a good Expat insurance policy is critical.

Expat health insurance may be the best thing you buy

Finding the best international health insurance for you and your family requires time and proper research. But, finding the perfect overseas health insurance policy means peace of mind. The best insurance policy is indeed one you never have to use. But, if you or your family do encounter a health issue, you need to know that you can receive the best possible care.

With increased global mobility, insurance companies have adapted their offerings. This change means that you can still access quality healthcare, no matter where you are.

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.