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Our complete guide to understanding the importance of international health insurance

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International Medical Insurance Policy: Full Guide

assurance médicale internationale


Taking out an international medical insurance policy is a must for most expatriates.

Find here all our explanations from professionals of the sector to understand how these plans work.

Why Should You Buy International Medical Insurance?

When someone moves abroad, he/she might no longer be under his/her country’s Social Security system. Besides this, the public medical system of the country of residence is likely to be less developed. This means less protection and more restrictions.

So then, it’s highly recommendable to get individual international medical insurance. It will allow you to seek assistance in the private sector without paying a fortune from your pocket. Even in those countries with really high medical costs.

International medical insurance plans allow you to keep your health expenses covered in your new country of residence. But also in all the other territories covered by the contract. Including temporary stays in your home country.

Without this coverage, you risk having to pay considerable amounts of money.

These policies also offer the possibility of benefiting from a simplified contract. Which is very useful when you are not familiar with the specificities of the local health system. Also, all the procedures will be carried out in your language, for more comfort.

The Different Types of Individual International Medical Insurance

There are two main types of international medical health insurance: private and Social Security.

All expatriates are free to choose the solution they prefer. But some countries require a minimum level of coverage, or a contract with an approved company, before granting a residence permit.

These conditions are generally met by most international companies. But it is better to be sure before signing up.

Private International Medical Health Insurance

The most common policies are known as “from the first euro” or “first dollar”. This is because they cover health care costs from the first euro spent, unlike supplementary insurance that only complements the reimbursements of another organization.

Some private companies nevertheless offer “Social Security supplements”. They improve and reinforce the guarantees offered by Social Security.

Competition is fierce between international insurers. This allows you to choose from a wide variety of offers and formulas. Some are more protective than others and adapted to all needs and budgets.

International Health and Medical Insurance With Social Security

Social Security is not available in all countries. And some have more restrictions than others. Nevertheless, some offer coverage even when their nationals go abroad on an expatriation. You should ask the competent organism to know all the details in your country.

Social Security is a public organism that offers health insurance, retirement insurance, and coverage against professional risks. In most cases, it doesn’t refuse any affiliation request or applies restrictions due to pre-existing medical conditions.

Which International Medical Insurance Policy Should I Choose?

More and more expatriates decide to buy international medical insurance with the “first euro” companies. Mainly because of their more advantageous “contribution/reimbursement ratio”. But the Social Security may be suitable for certain specific situations.

Social Security: Open to All but With Low Coverage

In some countries, Social Security gives insurance to any expatriate that requests affiliation. Without any additional cost or exclusion of coverage. And there is no medical questionnaire required upon enrollment.

People suffering from a serious chronic illness or who have undergone major surgery can turn to Social Security. Most private insurance companies might refuse to cover them or apply an “additional premium”.

Most of the time, its fees are calculated only according to the age and family situation of the insured. There is a single rate and a family rate. In some countries, the contributions also take into account the insured’s salary.

In some cases, it’s possible to get advantageous rates if you are younger than 30 or your household income is lower than a specific threshold.

However, the main drawback of this international health and medical insurance is that its reimbursements might be too low. They are often calculated taking into account the cost of care in your country. If the final price is higher, you will have to pay the difference.

Another problematic point is that the coverage is very limited and not very flexible. It does not cover repatriation (which is essential). And it is not possible to add services to those offered.

To benefit from better reimbursements and more complete coverage, it is recommended to subscribe to a supplementary plan.

Private International Medical Insurance Plans, for Maximum Coverage

Apart from the special cases mentioned above, “first euro” insurance is generally more interesting.

The fees are lower than the Social Security ones. And the reimbursements are much higher because they are not subject to your country’s scales.

This type of international medical insurance policy is very flexible. And it allows for very extensive coverage, well beyond health issues:

  • Protection of luggage against theft
  • Airline ticket cancellation insurance
  • Civil liability insurance
  • Repatriation insurance
  • Etc.

Of course, the more coverage you have, the more expensive the fees will be. And there is a required medical questionnaire at the time of enrollment that may lead to an increase in the cost or to exclusions of coverage.

It is necessary to request a quote to find out and compare the price of these contracts.

In addition, these insurances rely on local health networks. This allows their policyholders to benefit from shortened reimbursement periods. And even exempt them from advancing costs when these are important, for example in the case of hospitalization.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Is Interesting to Buy International Medical Insurance?

It allows expatriates to get coverage for their medical expenses while they are abroad, without having to pay them from their pockets. In countries with a public health system, it reinforces the level of care received and gives access to more services.

What Are the Different Types Available?

There are two main types of international medical insurance plans:
– The “first euro/dollar” policies
– Social Security

How to Choose Your International Health Plan?

You should analyze your needs and the country where you are going to be expatriated. And then, leverage the pros and cons of each type of insurance.

The “first euro/dollar” insurances are often recommended because they offer many advantages, including:
– Very good quality/price ratio
– Reimbursement of expenses from the first euro/dollar incurred

But there is a compulsory medical questionnaire that can lead to exclusions or increases in the fees.

Social Security does not require a health questionnaire and accepts all applications. So then, it’s very interesting in the case of medical pre-existing conditions.

But its reimbursements are often very low, especially in countries where health costs are high. It is strongly recommended to take out a supplementary insurance policy.

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This is also interesting:

What countries should I move to? The best countries to move to are not the same for everyone! Finding the ideal destination depends first of all on what is expected on a personal level.


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