In 1996, the Health and Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was passed in the United States instituting a new standard of industry practices. For a US traveler, this can be of great importance especially after returning back to the US with an international policy. With the Affordable Care Act currently in place, it is not as much as an issue as it has been in the past as pre-existing conditions can not be used as a reason for denying coverage. Read ACA and International Health Insurance.
With most international insurance plans, a certificate of creditable coverage is issued when your policy terminates. If you will be transitioning to a US group insurance plan, your certificate of coverage will be reviewed and may reduce your waiting period for pre-existing conditions if applicable. Currently, pre-existing conditions are not a reason for denial on your coverage in the USA. If the plan is HIPAA compliant, your new domestic group insurance will apply this coverage toward waiting periods on pre-existing conditions.
As the United States Department of Labor explains, HIPAA regulations state “that a preexisting condition exclusion can be imposed on a condition only if medical advice, diagnosis, care, or treatment was recommended or received during the 6 months prior to your enrollment date in the plan.” The maximum waiting period on a pre-existing condition plan that is HIPAA compliant is 12 months – or 18 months for a late enrollee. This has been updated due to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Check with a US broker regarding eligibility for US plans. Again, these rules have changed recently so check with a broker for up to date advice.
If this is a concern, you may want to consider a Global Health Insurance Plan – they typically are not HIPAA compliant but will follow HIPAA guidelines. You can purchase 12 months of coverage, with the option to renew annually. Once you return to the US, you have the option to continue with your plan (for a limited period) or switch to a domestic carrier. For further details on the Global Health plans, you can view an international health insurance overview here.