Once you have purchased your international health insurance plan, it may seem like everything is in order. Even if you have fulfilled any necessary insurance requirements for travel, it is important to understand the basics of your health policy and how to utilize it. Being informed of less familiar benefits included or excluded and potential paperwork associated with your coverage will allow you to maximize your plan and be well prepared in the event of an emergency.
After taking the time to weigh your options regarding the best insurance policy for you, it is important to understand how to use health insurance when living abroad and exactly what all the small print really means. Health insurance when living abroad can differ in the benefits it provides depending on the plan that you have obtained. In order to be able to maximize the use of your health insurance, it is smart to understand the ins and outs of what your international health insurance policy offers. Having knowledge of what incidents can be covered, what physicians fall under the network, and what paperwork you are required to submit if you use the plan will allow you to avoid confusion, hassle, and unnecessary costs at the time of use.
How to Choose a Provider
Some health insurance plans require you to visit an in-network provider to receive coverage, others allow you to choose your provider (whether in-network or not). However, keep in mind that you will typically pay less if you visit an in-network provider. It is very important to know ahead of time what facilities will be covered under your health insurance when living abroad. Finding these providers is easier than you may think since many insurance companies provide an online directory of the in-network doctors and facilities within the network of the plan.
Once you have arrived at your international destination it is recommended to locate facilities nearby that are in-network. This way, in the event of an emergency, you can relieve some stress by being mindful of where you can be treated. Another advantage of obtaining treatment under a recommended physician or center is that your insurance is more likely to be billed directly. This allows you to avoid having to paying out of pocket and wait to receive a reimbursement.
Something else to keep in mind is some plans may require you to pre-authorize your treatment. Pre-authorization or pre-notification means letting the insurance company know that you will be receiving treatment for a specific condition that they require you to notify them about before the care is received, or within a specific time frame. Typical conditions that require pre-authorization include hospitalization, emergency medical evacuation, repatriation of remains, a CAT scan, an MRI and emergency reunion. When you purchase your plan, establish what situations require pre-authorization that way you can receive as much coverage as possible.
Refunds, Claims, and Reimbursements
As mentioned above, to have a doctor visit or emergency run as smooth as possible, it is recommended to try and receive treatment from a medical center that falls within the network of your international health insurance policy. In the event that you are required to pay out of pocket, it is important to understand how the refund and reimbursement process works. Depending on your insurance plan you may be expected to pay a copayment or fulfill a deductible. These are fees that you are required to pay for specific services at the time of treatment before the insurance will pay on your eligible expenses. This is a charge that you are not eligible to receive a refund for. However, if it is necessary for you to pay an amount upfront apart from a copayment or deductible, you may then be eligible to receive a reimbursement. Each insurance provider deals with refunds and reimbursements distinctly, so be aware of the specific details of your provider’s reimbursement process. It is essential that for any treatment or service you request and save receipts and invoices. These documents will generally need to be submitted when you have to file a claim since they indicate the amount that is being requested and the exact amount that was paid out of pocket. It is always best to file a claim as soon as possible, due to the fact that receiving a refund check can vary from a couple of weeks to a couple of months.
Commonly Forgotten Benefits of International Health Insurance
Something else to keep in mind is that many international health insurance plans have worldwide travel and medical assistance. It is standard that an insurance provider has an emergency number that can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This is helpful when you are in need of utilizing your plan and require assistance on how to do so. A few benefits that might be included in this service are:
- Pre-Trip Destination Information
- Medical Monitoring
- Provider Referrals
- Travel Document Replacement
- Lost Luggage Assistance
The key to making the most of your international health insurance policy is being informed of the small print and not hesitating to contact your provider in the event that something unexpected occurs. It is always best to contact your provider with any questions that you have, even if you are unsure that they are able to help.