Don’t Let This Happen To You

Although the costs of health care in Mexico are significantly less expensive than in the U.S. or Canada, if something major happens to you internationally and you find yourself in a hospital, costs can add up quickly.  As an expat living in Mexico, I have seen the importance of having international major medical insurance first hand.

As a licensed insurance agent, the first thing I get asked is, “How much is it?”.   Typically, as soon as they hear the dollar amount, their reaction is either, “Well, I have gone this long without international insurance” or “Is there anything cheaper?”

There are two things wrong with this reasoning:  1)  Without your health, you will not be able to live the dream you have worked so hard to create and 2)  With this in mind, isn’t your health worth more than any THING you can buy?

I want to share this real life story that happened in Quintana Roo, Mexico not too long ago:

On a typical day in the tropics, warm and sunny, my friend set out on Hwy 307 towards Tulum with her boyfriend and her two children.  The trip to Tulum was going to be a mixture of business and pleasure that included stopping into shops to pick up money and then going to the beach to play.   It was her boyfriend’s birthday, so they were setting off to have a fun day.  The last thing my friend remembers on this trip is looking back at her children while en route to Tulum.

No one knows for sure what caused the auto accident, but her car ended up on the wrong side of the Hwy and rested against a utility pole.  The front end of the car was smashed.

Thankfully, the children, who were in the back seat, were unharmed.

It was a different story for the two adults in the front seats.  The driver had suffered a broken leg and my friend was unconscious.   As the driver got the children out of the car and out of harms way, he waited for help to arrive.  Passers by stopped to help and called 066, the Mexican 911.

My friend was not as lucky.  She was smashed up against the windshield with lacerations to her face and body from the broken glass and her femur and collarbone were broken.  She recalls opening her eyes and seeing her leg over her head and as thick blood dripped into her eyes, she fell back into unconsciousness.

The jaws of life arrived to remove my friend from the car.  An ambulance rushed them to the hospital and the hospital did indeed admit and stabilize them.   But as my friends lay in a state of shock, the doctors informed them of their injuries and what was going to be necessary to treat them.   The hospital also informed my friends of the cost of the surgeries and that they needed payment up front before they would be preformed.   This policy is typical in Mexico.

The cost for the surgeries was going to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $15,000.00.  Although that cost is significantly less than it would have been in the U.S. or Canada, with the little savings they had and the balances left on their credit cards, there was not enough to cover the surgeries.

As word got out into the community of the accident, support arrived at the hospital to take care of the children.  It did not take long to discover the seriousness of the accident and the predicament my friends were in.  The only thing that could be done was done:  The community jumped to action and raised donations.  The donations came in, however,  it took one week before enough money was raised and the surgeries could be preformed.

That accident was almost a year ago and she is still healing.  The community still supports her to keep her children fed, clothed and in school.  It has been a very long year for her family but they are all thankful to be alive and together.  As my friend continues to heal, she is becoming more and more independent and life is slowly returning to normal.

So think about this:

Isn’t your health and safety worth more than anything else you can think of?  You have worked so hard to build the life you have always wanted, do not cheat yourself by trying to save money on your health.  Protect yourself and your family and get what you deserve.  Health insurance is not free, but it is less expensive than an unexpected accident or a critical illness you never saw coming.

Be careful of health plans that seem a little too cheap.   Credible insurance agencies have to be able to pay claims and stay in business, so if a quote comes in at half the price of another plan, there is probably a good reason.  Watch out for “Dread Disease” or “Accident Only” policies.  Although these seem like a good deal, you never know what your future holds, and a good policy will encompass both.

Our major medical policy may not be the cheapest policy available today, but it is the best coverage you can get for your money….and that gives expats peace of mind.


Price Isn’t Everything When Choosing A Health Care Policy

With so many different international health care policies available today, it can be difficult to pick out the best policy for your health care needs.  In combination with all of the different insurance companies offering insurance, there are also many different health care plans to choose from.

There are a few important factors to consider before you purchase your next international health care policy:

Price Isn’t Everything

The cheapest policy may not provide you the best coverage.  It is not possible for one insurance company to offer the exact same coverage for less than half the cost of another insurance company.  Often times, you are not comparing apples to apples.  If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

The benefits offered, and more importantly, the benefits that may be excluded, can make a big difference in your costs and the quality of care you get if you become injured or  ill.  Some of the products out there look and sound like health insurance, but actually do not provide comprehensive health insurance coverage.  Here are a few to watch out for:

“Dread Disease” Policies

“Dread Disease” policies pay only for costs related to stated, specific diseases, such as cancer.   This is very dangerous coverage as none of us know what kind of disease we may be hit with in the future.  Unless you have a crystal ball telling you what you what illnesses you are going to contract in the future, it’s best to have comprehensive coverage.  In fact, some states in the U.S. have banned the sale of “Dread Disease” policies and in 2014, under Obamacare, all policies must include a range of health care coverages.

“Accident Only” Policies

“Accident Only” policies pay only for care you need as a result of an accident that isn’t due to illness.  The reason the premiums are so low on these policies is that it will only cover accidents and not illness.  A good comprehensive policy will cover costs associated with accidents and  illness, so accident only policies are not a good value.

“Discount” Plans

“Discount” plans are not health insurance and therefore are unregulated by  insurance regulatory agencies.  Today, some state insurance regulators and attorney generals have issued alerts warning people not to purchase discount medical plans.   The reasons for this are that they do not protect you from high medical expenses and reports have been made to their claim payment history, not offering the discounts represented.

“Stacked” Policies

“Stacked” policies are where insurers combine products, or stack them together, to patch together a comprehensive health care policy.  However, an accident only policy combined with a dread disease policy may sound similar to comprehensive health care coverage, but it isn’t.

To be sure that you will be covered no matter what health care emergencies come your way, it’s best to pay for comprehensive, major medical health care coverage for the protection you deserve.  Protect the dreams you have worked so hard to build, don’t cut corners on your health.

Have A Health Care Ally While Traveling Abroad

Our International Major Medical Insurance is designed for individuals or families who live or work abroad, contract employees and people with dual residencies.  As long as you reside outside your home country for 6 months a year or longer, you qualify.

Your Own Medical Concierge

One of the best and unique services our international major medical insurance provides is the Medical Concierge Program.  With this program, a customer care representative will help you locate a physician or health care facility anywhere in the world when it matters the most.  Customer care representatives are available to you no matter what time of day or night it is and there are never any vacations.  If you need help at 3:00 a.m. in Costa Rica on Christmas Eve due to extreme stomach cramps, we will be able to help you get to a health care facility quickly.

Our medical professionals will also work with your international doctor or surgeon to coordinate your care.  We will take the worry out of translation issues as we communicate directly with your international doctor and stay with you from diagnosis to billing.

You also have 24 hour access to your information so that you can see the status of your claim.  Claim forms and medical receipts can be faxed or emailed directly from the hospital or your hotel.

Having an ally while you are abroad is vital in a medical crisis.




Selecting A Major Medical Deductible

An international major medical health insurance policy is vital to making sure your medical expenses will be paid in case of catastrophic illness or emergency while living abroad.  However, how do you decide which is better: A low deductible with a high premium or a high deductible with a low premium?  Well, that depends on your ability to pay up front.

Your deductible is typically determined by the amount of premium you pay monthly for your insurance policy.  A policy with a higher deductible will typically have a lower monthly insurance premium because a policy holder will have to pay more up front in order for the full insurance benefits to kick in.  A low deductible plan will often have high insurance premiums to pay monthly.

Resist the temptation to lower your premium by selecting a plan that cuts major benefit categories.  There are no bargains in health insurance.   An insurance company capable enough to cover the policy holder’s medical needs has to collect enough money to do that. The only safe way to lower your premium is to get a plan with a higher deductible.

Instead, lower your premium by opting for a higher deductible (say $5,000 rather than $2,500), a higher out-of-pocket limit (say $20,000 rather than $10,000), or both.  Although this mean that in years when you’re healthy, you might get little or no benefit from your policy, it is vital protection against financial catastrophe in the years with high medical bills.

To offset the high deductible, open a savings account specifically to cover your medical deductible along with any missed income due to illness or accident.   Also, to decrease your premium, annual payments as opposed to monthly payments can save you almost 2 full months of premium as monthly payments typically have administrative fees tacked on.

Is A High Deductible Major Medical Policy Right For You?

Many people planning to retire abroad start saving for self insurance plans.  Although it’s good to have a reserve on hand, major medical expenses can run to such high totals that self-insurance isn’t a reasonable option even for the wealthy.   A high deductible major medical policy can be a good compromise.

Benefits of a Major Medical Policy

With typical, domestic health care policies, medical insurance pays a portion of medical bills, helping to make routine medical care more affordable.   HMO policy plans focus on paying all but the smallest amount of every procedure.

A major medical policy reverses the typical health care policy and pays for the excess expense of high priced procedures but covers little of the costs of routine visits and other inexpensive medical treatments.

The payout for a major medical policy begins when the chosen deductible amount has been met.   High deductible policies have deductibles in the thousands of dollars, meaning they pay for only the most expensive medical treatments. In exchange, the higher the deductible on a policy, the lower the premium payments.

Plan For Both

Combining an international, high deductible major medical policy with a health savings account is a great option for expats.   If you choose a $10,000.00 deductible, set that amount aside in an account specifically ear marked for health care and contribute what you can each month.   Although HSA’s are only available with domestic, US health plans, setting aside your deductible will offer you piece of mind during a medical crisis.

International Major Medical Coverage

What Is Major Medical Coverage?

Major medical health insurance  offers catastrophic health care coverage with high deductibles and low monthly premiums.  A major medical policy typically only covers major hospital and medical expenses after you have met your deductible with some preventative care coverage.

Are Routine Doctor Visits Covered?

Clients pay out of pocket for routine doctor visits and prescription drugs.  For example, if you have a $10,000.00 deductible and you have surgery that costs $8,000.00, you must pay for that surgery unless you’ve already paid $10,000 toward covered medical expenses this year.  The most popular deductibles are typically $2,500.00 to $5,000.00.

What If I Need To Go To The Hospital?

The majority of major medical health plans cover expenses for hospital stays, surgery, intensive care, diagnostic X-rays and lab tests.  Prescription drug coverage within major medical health plans often carries a separate deductible you must meet, then a co-insurance amount.

What Will A Major Medical Policy Do For Me?

Older adults who purchase major medical plans are primarily concerned with potential financial losses from a critical illness or accident. Many times, they do not qualify for Medicare yet, so a mid-range deductible option protects them from potential health care disasters.   These types of plans generally attract healthy people who take few prescription medications and do not mind paying out of pocket for office visits.

Medicare recipients who live outside their home country for half the year also apply for international major medical coverage as   Medicare only provides coverage in the U.S.  People with second homes in foreign countries find this kind of policy comforting as it will provide coverage for the health care they need abroad until they are healthy enough to potentially fly back to the U.S. to continue treatment.  Medicare will once again take over coverage upon returning to the U.S.

Not all pre-existing conditions mean denial of coverage.   If you have not received treatment within the last couple of years for a pre-existing condition, an exclusion for that health condition only may apply, but after 1 year of holding an active policy, the pre-existing exclusion may be dropped.

If you live outside your home country for 6 months a year or longer, you should apply for international major medical coverage.  If you are already living outside your home country, you can apply now.  If your move is in the future, you should apply 30 days before your departure date.


Health Care in Mexico is Essential

No matter which country you are from, your national health care coverage will not be accepted in Mexico.  In order to have international health care coverage, you will need to purchase a separate medical travel policy or long term major medical policy because Mexico does not have any reciprocal health care agreements with any other country.

In Mexico, all doctors offices and hospitals require proof of insurance or payment by credit card or cash before treatment.   Although health care is significantly less in Mexico than in other countries, costs can add up quickly and without insurance, you will need enough cash or a credit card with a high enough limit to cover the bill.  The danger of this while traveling or living abroad lies in catastrophic illnesses and accidents that may require an expensive hospital visit or stay.

A routine doctor visit and many prescription costs are pretty low in Mexico and will not affect your budget much.  It is the serious illness or accidents that you want insurance for.  Common carrier airlines will not always fly you back home if you are not stable enough to fly.

The bottom line is that you want a health care advocate and protection in a foreign country.   Our international health care policies provide 24 hour access to bi-lingual health care representatives who will help you locate the closest hospital, discuss symptom and treatment options with local doctors and make the claim process simple.   You may log in to your account anytime to see your claim payment status or ask coverage questions.

You have worked hard to realize your dream of living internationally.  Protect your health care and your investments.


Is International Major Medical Insurance Right For You

Major medical health insurance is often referred to as a “catastrophic” health care plan.   The majority of major medical health plans cover expenses for hospital stays, surgery, intensive care, diagnostic X-rays and lab tests.  This kind of international health care coverage is great for seniors who qualify for Medicare in the U.S., but need something in case of a medical emergency while retiring abroad.

American Insurance for Expats offers international, major medical health care coverage, if you live outside your home country for 6 months a year or longer.  The lifetime maximum limit for each individual is $5,000,000.00 - $8,000,000.00.  Treatment outside the U.S. and Canada is subject to deductible, no co-insurance.   Treatment inside the U.S. is subject to deductible with while paying 80% of the next $5,000 of eligible expenses, then 100% to the overall maximum per period of coverage.

Deductible’s range from $250 to $10,000 and if your major medical plan qualifies under IRS definitions as a high-deductible health plan, you can open a health savings account (HSA), in which you can put aside money, tax-deferred, to pay for medical expenses.

Do you fit the profile?

Older adults who purchase major medical plans are primarily concerned with potential financial losses from a critical illness or accident.   Doctor visits and prescription drugs are often so much less expensive abroad, that paying for those out of pocket is not the concern.  The concern is a critical illness or accident that could potentially drain a savings account or credit card until travel back to the U.S. for treatment can be considered.

Pre-existing conditions have made it difficult for people to become eligible for a major medical health insurance plan in the past, however, you may still qualify for coverage with an exclusion in regards to the pre-existing condition.

Before you buy a major medical health insurance plan, consider:

  • Can you afford to pay for your own doctor visits abroad?
  • Do you take a lot of prescriptions or only occasionally?
  • Are you living in an area where prescription drugs are less expensive?


ExPat Major Medical Insurance Covers Americans / Canadians Living Abroad

Most U.S. health plans do not cover Americans or Canadians living abroad.  American Insurance for Expats offers a major medical, U.S. style health insurance policy with major differences: Worldwide coverage; medical evacuation options; on-line access to file claims and reach a customer service representatives, 24/7.

The typical U.S. managed care network in which you receive a lower negotiated rate for using in-network providers (HMO or PPO), does not exist in most other countries.  When you live abroad, there is often no network and so you can go anywhere you want.  However, where do you go in a foreign land?

This is where an international major medical insurance policy significantly helps when you need it most.  International health insurers  essentially create their own referral network of doctors, hospitals and medical professionals in more than 180 countries around the globe.  Since health care outside the U.S. is significantly less, negotiated rates are not the primary function of international insurers, but providing a referred doctor or hospital is, along with direct electronic billing in multiple currencies.

In addition to establishing direct pay relationships, the insurer’s network provides a local physician referral service that can prove invaluable for expats who may not even speak the language.

Having a health insurance provider abroad is an invaluable service when you need it.  Locating local doctors and hospitals, billing assistance in the native language and medical care translations are services international health care insurance provides.

A Pre-existing Condition Does Not Mean You Cannot Have Health Insurance

As more and more people are looking to international communities for the lifestyle they want and can afford, international health insurance is playing an important role in determining the ability to make such a move.  However, many people nearing retirement age have concerns about finding coverage if they have pre-existing conditions and have been turned down by other domestic companies in the past.

Having a pre-existing health condition does not mean you cannot find affordable international health insurance and pursue your dream of living abroad.

There are a lot of decisions to make before retiring abroad such as choosing a location in consideration of housing costs, food costs, utilities and proximity to quality health care.  Choosing an international health insurance plan is equally as important.

American Insurance for Expats and IMG, International Medical Group, has been in the business of international health insurance for more than 20 years.  Meeting the needs of expats living abroad, missionary groups, traveling business consultants, student exchange programs, and frequent flyers, IMG is use to providing health care coverage to the international community.  They have earned their reputation for excellence in the international community by maintaining the ability to maintain flexible underwriting and understand that everyone has a unique medical background.

Each application is reviewed based on the full disclosure of your medical history that you provide and coverage is delivered based on:

  • Standard underwriting - Standard underwriting provides the full pre-exisiting conditions benefit as outlined on flexible underwriting.
  • Exclusionary rider(s) - With an exclusionary rider, IMG is able to extend coverage for medical needs with the exception of the specific excluded condition named in the rider.  This allows standard pre-existing condition benefits for non-ridered conditions that may otherwise have been declined.
  • Flexible underwriting rider - The flexible underwriting rider allows IMG to extend coverage even if you have signifigant, ongoing, and/or chronic pre-existing conditions. For a nominal annual administration fee, coverage is extended for a pre-existing condition following 24 months of continuous coverage, during which you are symptom, advice or treatment free for that particular condition.

Along with flexible underwriting, American Insurance for ExPats and IMG also provides flexible coverage options.  You can choose coverage depending on how many months a year you spend outside of your home country.  For instance, you may be considering purchasing a small home in Lake Chapala, Mexico, and spending 10 months of the year in Lake Chapala, while expecting to spend time in the United States to visit family and friends.  In this instance, if you are not yet on Medicare, an insurance policy that includes coverage in the U.S. will be perfect.  However, if you are already on Medicare, you can choose coverage that does not include coverage in the United States, which will reduce your cost.  With these coverage area choices:

  • Coverage area choices - You have the opportunity to select the coverage area that best reflects your geographic area of need. Each provides full coverage, but premiums reflect the cost of care in different parts of the world. Regardless of the coverage area you choose, you maintain the freedom to choose your own provider.
  • Multiple deductible options - To accommodate your financial resources, you can select from seven different deductible options - all providing different premium levels.  Additionally, your deductible can be reduced up to 50% to a $2,500 maximum.
  • Four premium modes - Schedule the frequency of payment that meets your means; annual, semi-annual, quarterly or monthly.
Making the decision to live abroad is a choice that takes careful consideration and planning.  American Insurance for Expats and IMG want to take the guess work out of choosing your international health insurance needs.  To get a cost quote, visit our site or call us direct at 1-888-398-9451.