About the Resource Library
This page contains dozens of short articles that will help you quickly understand international insurance. For example, understanding insurance terminology, purchasing details and managing your insurance coverage are topics that are all covered within these articles. Choose an Article From the Topics Below
List of Articles
- Applying for health insurance online
- Canceling your insurance coverage – How to do it
- Cut International Insurance Premium By Up To 80%
- Getting health insurance records
- Getting the most mileage out of your insurance
- Health conditions not covered in the first six months
- How do I get my newborn on my insurance plan?
- Keep those medical receipts
- Keep your insurance account current
- Know your insurance plan
- Out of Network Healthcare, a recurring problem
- Paying for medical care received inside/outside the USA
- Please read your policy
- Preventive Care
- Renew your career plan outside the USA
- Renew your career plan outside the USA 2
- Renewed policies more expensive than new policies!
- Strategies to control insurance renewal increases
- The importance of pre-certification
- Why insurance is cancelled
Applying for health insurance online
In this present day and age, time is of the essence and applying for international health insurance online really helps you save time for other important things in life. Getting quotes and applying for insurance may have been historically slow in the past compared to the current process, and included lots of faxing documents. Ninety percent of the plans offered by Good Neighbor Insurance can now be purchased online. Likewise, about the same percentage of international health insurance plans provide free online quotes. So you can quickly obtain accurate quotes and easily secure international travel health insurance for your trip or for your move abroad!
As your service provider, we definitely want to be sure that you are taken care of. Below are a few things to be aware of when applying online:
- Make sure you are working with a reputable insurance company that allows you to reach them in person. If they decline putting direct phone numbers on their website- Avoid that type of insurance salesperson.
- Do not apply online if you are not sure what you are getting. This is very important. If you have questions about any policy from any website, call us first at 866-636-9100. Study the international travel health insurance plan you are purchasing, especially the benefit page and the exclusion page. If you cannot find an exclusion page on the web site, do not purchase online. You are welcome to ask us as well; we are more than happy to serve you!
- Before you purchase online, check to see if there is a telephone number for an agent somewhere on the site. Write the number down and have it handy if case you run into a problem. Be sure to also record the web site address so you can find it again if necessary. As a general rule, the larger your investment the more careful you want to be when purchasing international health insurance online.
- What are the advantages with an online purchase?
- First, it is often quicker.
- Second, in most cases, you receive an immediate confirmation of coverage for international travel health insurance. Generally, an online purchase for short-term health insurance can speed up delivery of your medical ID cards and policy by around about seven days.
- Third, an important advantage is that you can apply while outside the U.S.A. or whatever country your country of citizenship is, without having to make contact with an insurance specialist or agent. You can purchase a travel policy from a friend’s computer or even in a computer kiosk or library and at any time, including mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets as all our sites are mobile friendly and secure. So applying online and knowing how to apply online for international short-term health insurance gives you much flexibility that hasn’t been available in the past.
Here a Good Neighbor Insurance we have over 100 years of combined overseas experience and have hand-picked the insurance carriers we work with to provide the best, most cost-effective insurance for our clients, families, individuals, and organizations alike.
Canceling your insurance coverage – How to do it
When canceling your insurance coverage, specific protocols that must be followed. Most of the time insurance companies will not cancel your insurance plan without a written request signed by you. This can be mailed, faxed or scanned into the word processor and e-mailed, but it must have your signature. They request this signature to protect themselves by proving that the client canceled the insurance of his own initiative. In your letter to the company, which should be sent through your agent, give your name, the name of the policy you are canceling, the certificate number on the policy and the cancellation date you are requesting. If you are canceling coverage for only one member of the family, make sure that is clear.
Some insurance companies will reimburse unused premium when you cancel a policy. Generally there will be a cancellation fee. It is good to clarify the cancellation procedures with your agent before you purchase a policy.
The most important fact to remember is that your insurance company will not cancel your policy based on a phone call. They want a letter signed by the insured requesting cancellation.
Cut International Insurance Premium By Up To 80%
The number of people contacting us for insurance after becoming pregnant, or developing cancer or having a heart-attack might astound you. And unfortunately we never have good news for these folks. No insurance company will insure a person that is in the midst of receiving costly medical treatments.
Why does this happen? Some people, especially young people (and especially young men) just don’t think they will ever have a medical problem. Others are just too busy. They plan to get international health insurance but just haven’t got around to it. But the major reason is finances. But your international insurance premium doesn’t have to be expensive!
Insurance can be expensive, especially if you purchase a cadillac plan. If you can’t afford that kind of plan, go for a scaled back plan. The benefits in a scaled back plan are still very good and the cost savings are significant. The monthly premium ($1000 deductible) for a 45 year old female on our most expensive plan is $626 while on a budget plan the monthly premium is $106. To be sure, that cadillac plan is better than the budget plan but not six times better. And the $106 per month can be decreased to $80 if coverage in the USA is excluded. Health insurance is affordable.
Getting health insurance records
Getting health insurance records can be difficult, but not impossible! In the USA, your health insurance records are stored in a central location called the Medical Insurance Bureau (MIB). Not many people know this, but you have the right and ability to get certain insurance records, which allows you to correct the information if it’s wrong. If you’re interested in getting a copy of your health insurance records, you can go to the Medical Insurance Bureau and request a copy. It’s not much fun going through the firm’s voice response system, but you’ll get your file with a bit of patience. Note that if you have not applied for individually underwritten life, health, or disability insurance over the last seven years, MIB will not have a record on you. MIB’s toll-free number for disclosure is 866-692-6901.
Getting the most mileage out of your insurance
Here are some rules that help us when we have domestic insurance coverage. They are also practical for those insured with international coverage.
- Pre-certify — Make sure the insurance company approves the medical care you are requesting.
- Be familiar with and use all “Preventive Care” benefits included in your policy.
- Keep your account current by mailing your premium in on time or using automatic payment options.
- Remember which, if any, of your pre-existing conditions are not covered by your insurance.
- Keep detailed records of all medical procedures, receipts for payments, etc. in a file that you up-grade annually.
- Only patronize health care providers/services that are listed in your network/provider directory or approved by your carrier.
Health conditions not covered in the first six months
Most international health insurance companies exclude coverage during the first six months for some conditions that may not be defined as “true” pre-existing conditions. For example, the Special Illness Exclusion statement on one insurance company reads:
“The following conditions which manifest themselves within the first 180 days of coverage are excluded: Any condition of the breast, prostate, the reproductive system, tonsils, adenoids, hemorrhoids, hernia, gallstones, kidney stones, glaucoma, cataracts, disc disease, all types of cysts, and any disorder or disease of the skin.”
The insurance companies are declining coverage for these conditions in the first six months because generally these are the types of conditions that may be present in a person’s body even though they were not bothering the client prior to the effective date. For example, kidney stones don’t develop in just one day but over a period of time. Check your “Exclusion” page to discover what kinds of conditions are not covered in the first six months of coverage.
How do I get my newborn on my insurance plan?
Even though a couple may have a very good insurance plan, a newborn is not automatically covered on their family plan. In the USA, all parents have the option of putting their newborn on their family policy during the first month of life. International policies don’t always work that way. You will need to submit an application for the baby in order to get coverage. The insurance company will then send the application through underwriting and make a decision on coverage based on the baby’s health.
On most of the career plans the two youngest children under nine are covered free of charge; so if you have only two children, adding your new baby to your policy will not require any extra premium.
Also keep in mind that most international health insurance companies want you to notify them within the first three months of pregnancy. Failing to do this could cost you some benefits.
Keep those medical receipts
Make sure you keep copies of all medical receipts, letters, invoices, etc. from your insurance company and doctor’s office. Also note carefully all medical procedures and the dates they were performed. Having all this information close at hand will come in handy if you have insurance claims. We suggest that you start a new medical folder at the beginning of each policy year. Keep records of all medical bills, charges, procedures, etc. for that year in this folder. This way you will be able to know how close you are to reaching your deductible. When you submit a claim also send copies of all receipts. Keep the originals for your files. Remember–sloppy record keeping can affect your payback on claims and also cause a great waste of time.ou can just drive across the border and spend a night to satisfy the leaving the USA requirement. But if you are a distance from the border, that would be difficult.
Keep your insurance account current
Keep your insurance account current! Two of our insured friends, for various reasons, failed to pay their insurance premiums; therefore, their insurance policies were terminated. I understand this problem. Sometimes I have a hard time coming up with my premium, too. The problem is that you don’t know when sickness will strike, and if your insurance is terminated because of lack of payment, there will be no coverage.
One person told me that he paid his insurance faithfully for years, forgot to pay the premium, was terminated, and two months later became quite sick and ran up huge medical bills. He had to pay for everything himself, just as if he had never had insurance.
Another sound reason for keeping your account current is that a company is not obligated to reinstate you if you developed some sickness during your coverage and then you were terminated. For example, if you had coverage, developed high-blood pressure, forgot to pay your premium and then terminated, the insurance company could then consider the high-blood pressure as a pre-existing condition and not reinstate you. So, to get the most mileage out of your insurance, keep your account current!
Know your insurance plan
I purchased my first American health insurance after being overseas for 30 years. The agent explained everything to me, but I understood very little. I gave him my check and filed away the insurance material he gave me. Never once read did I look over the material, but faithfully sent the company a check every month. I am aware now that the coverage was fine, but at that time I was not aware of the details of my coverage.
Many times we get calls from our clients who have purchased an insurance plan, but are mistaken concerning what is covered. I know reading insurance material is boring. Yet it is essential that you have a fair grasp of what is covered by your policy.
Read the insurance material before you purchase the policy. Highlight items that you don?t understand or that you think are important. Then contact your agent and ask for an explanation. If you are not satisfied with his/her answers, ask for a second agent.
Also read the small print in your policy. You must always keep in mind the old insurance adage, “The large print giveth and the small print taketh away.” Especially read the “Exclusion” page and the definition of “pre-existing conditions.” Another good adage to keep in mind is, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t.”
People who tend to be disappointed with their insurance are disappointed because they expect the insurance to cover something that is excluded from coverage in their policy. To avoid this, “Know your insurance plan.”
Out of Network Healthcare, a recurring problem
A common reason insurance companies sometimes will not pay claims is because medical care was received “out-of-network.” A network is a group of health care providers and facilities that have contracted with the insurance company to provide services at a fixed rate. By contracting for a fixed rate ahead of time, insurance companies can keep the cost of medical care down and thus keep monthly premiums lower. When we apply for a PPO health plan, we are agreeing to rates based on contracts established between the health care providers and insurance company. That is why companies insist you go to providers within their network.
It is essential that you always call your insurance company to make sure the facility or provider you are using is in their network. Remember, too, that sometimes your doctor’s office will say your doctor is contracted when in fact he is not. Always check with your insurance company and your Provider Directory, which you can find on the internet, before getting medical help.
Paying for medical care received inside/outside the USA
If you are receiving medical care in the USA, it is important for you to look on the web site of your present insurance company and find a healthcare provider in their network. This way you will receive the full benefit from your plan.
If you go to a provider in the company’s PPO network, that provider will call the insurance company to see if your insurance is valid. If you have not yet reached your deductible, often the provider will ask you to pay up front for medical care received. But in some cases they will bill the insurance company directly.
Generally the provider will take care of your medical needs and then invoice your insurance company for care received. Of course, the provider may ask you to pay up front and then you will be reimbursed by the insurance company; however, in most cases they will invoice the company. This is always better for you, for the insurance company will often re-price the bill, thus decreasing the charges of the medical provider. This will save you money. The insurance company will send you an Explanation of Benefits explaining how much the insurance company is paying your insurance provider.
If you have major surgery done overseas, the hospital will often call your insurance company. If the insurance company pre-certifies the surgery, the insurance company will often provide a “guarantee of payment.” If the insurance company does not do this, then you will need to pay up front.
Please read your policy
One repeated statement we hear from the insured is, “I didn’t know that wasn’t covered on the policy.” This is why it’s important to read your policy! When we face a major medical difficulty it is discouraging to find that a medical condition is not covered on our insurance policy.
I don’t know of any insurance policy that covers “everything.” Insurance companies are very careful to state what they cover on the “Benefit Page” and what they do not cover on the “Exclusion Page” of their brochures. Although we may not like the exclusion page, it is one way insurance companies limit coverage on certain conditions and thus control premiums.
It is also important to note that most insurance plans in the same category cover basically the same things. When comparing plans that are similar, do not compare just the premiums, but also pay careful attention to the small differences in benefits. For example, one plan may have better maternity coverage. Also, if one plan has rates much lower than others, you can be assured that their benefits are not as rich as other comparable plans.
Above all, keep in mind that no insurance plan will cover all possible medical situations.
Pre-certification means that the insurance company and medical foundation must approve the medical care you are requesting. Sometimes this is called “utilization review.” You are given a phone number to verify that the medical treatment you are requesting will be paid for by your insurance. This is how insurance companies make sure that no undue operations or medical procedures take place. By so doing they are able to keep insurance premiums lower for each of us. The real question pre-certification seeks to answer is: “Is the care being requested by the client ‘medically necessary?’”
Companies have different policies as to when pre-certification takes place. Some say you must pre-certify seven days before an operation, others two weeks. Some say only 48 hours. Of course emergencies are a different matter, but even those must be reported to the company within a specific time limit. Read your policy to determine pre-certification requirements. Of course pre-certification is not necessary for ordinary visits to your physician. But for major care, MRIs, x-rays, lab work, in-patient and outpatient surgery, ALWAYS call the pre-certification number on your insurance card. The rule of thumb: If in doubt whether your insurance will cover a medical expense, phone your pre-certification number first and find out.
Also remember that your insurance may not cover what your doctor insists is “medically necessary” care. For example, a person may have an alcohol problem, and the doctor suggests treatment for substance abuse. The treatment may be “medically necessary,” but the insurance policy may exclude coverage for “substance abuse.” Carefully read the “exclusion” page of your policy. Remember the rule: When you are considering any major medical care or expense, always pre-certify.
We look at health insurance for the needs of today. With the information that we have at our fingertips, we have learned that preventive care is very important for our health and also for our pocketbooks. Fortunately, health insurance companies feel the same way. Some USA domestic companies have special “Healthy Babies Program for Baby and Mom” with no co-pays for pre- and post-natal visits, a nurse advice line, health information library messages on over 25 topics, and a free baby monitor for new mothers who receive routine pre-natal care. Others give a huge range of discounts in chiropractic care, massage therapy, health and fitness, vitamins, herbs, and supplements, eye care, and rebates on car seats and sport helmets. For a doctor’s co-pay, some allow physical exams, GYN exams, pap tests, mammograms, and PSA blood tests to be done.
Unfortunately, at the present time, international plans do not have such generous preventive care benefits. Here is what is offered by the three major career plans that Good Neighbor carries:
Plan 1 – $150 wellness per Certificate Period (after 24 months of continuous coverage) for Members age 35 or older. Not subject to deductible.
Plan 2 – $50 policy period maximum for checkups and routine visits. Well childcare: usual, reasonable and customary charges for policy maximum are covered, limited to three visits per policy period (after deductible).
Plan 3 – One health check-up per policy year, maximum all-inclusive, not more than $110.
Renew your career plan outside the USA
All international career health plans are considered “surplus lines insurance,” and they do not fall under the supervision of the Department of Insurance (DOI) in the various states. The DOI does not interfere with international health insurance plans, but it insists that those plans are not used for domestic insurance coverage. The DOI does give allowances for furloughs and visits to the USA.
The understanding with most companies is that if you purchase or renew an international health insurance plan, you must leave the USA within 30 days. If you do not leave, your insurance will be cancelled. If you are spending your furlough near the Canadian or Mexican border, you can spend a night or two outside the USA and fulfill that requirement. Yet it is always best to plan your furloughs in such a way that your career insurance is renewed before you arrive in the USA. Put the renewal date on your calendar, and always keep that date in mind when you are planning a furlough. We realize that this is a headache, but it is what we must do!
Renew your career plan outside the USA 2
REMEMBER, with most international health plans, if you renew your career plan while in the USA you will need to leave within 30 days. The international insurance companies require this in order to satisfy the Department of Insurance (DOI) guidelines in the various states. The DOI is concerned about protecting domestic insurance companies; therefore, by requiring a person who applies for and/or renews his policy to leave the USA in 30 days is one way they do it.
The insured under an international policy should make sure that he/she is outside the USA at the time of renewal, or, if in the USA, he/she will be leaving for overseas within 30 days. If you do not follow these guidelines, your policy will not be renewed.
For a pregnancy, this could be a real concern. With all international career policies you get at least six months of furlough coverage in each policy year. Try to work it out that your renewal period does not happen during your furlough when you may be waiting for the delivery of a baby. If it does, and you live near the Canadian or Mexican border, that will be no problem. You can just drive across the border and spend a night to satisfy the “leaving the USA” requirement. But if you are a distance from the border, that would be difficult.
Renewed policies more expensive than new policies!
Many who have had an insurance policy become upset when they see that the premium they are paying at renewal is more than they would pay if they reapplied for the same policy. Why is that so? Here is one reason: If 100 people, ages 20-29, buy the Select Health plan of ABC Company in 2001, this is considered a Book of Business. The insurance company then monitors this Book of Business to make sure there is no loss–that is the premiums received at least equal claims. If claims are greater than premiums received, then the company raises the rates to compensate. So in a given year the renewal rates on this Book of Business could increase while the standard rates for the ?Select Health? plan stay the same. Of course, and generally every year or two, the new rates for the plan will be increased too.
So, is it good to switch plans? Sometimes! But if you are on a plan that will not cover pre-existing conditions before you have been on the plan for 24 months, if you switch plans you will have no coverage for pre-existing conditions for another 24 months. Also, some companies will not permit you to cancel an old policy and re-purchase. But if you feel you will save money, you always have the option of switching companies. Another reason to be careful would be due to pre-existing conditions. If one company accepted you without a rider on a pre-existing, that does not mean the next company will. If you have pre-existing conditions covered, it might be good to stay where you are.
Strategies to control insurance renewal increases
What can you do to get a handle on the insurance problem? The first rule is to apply for insurance coverage when you are healthy. If you develop a medical condition, it will probably not be covered, or you may even be denied coverage. Second, it is probably a good rule to start with a lower deductible. As the rates go up year by year (and they will), you can increase your deductible; thus you will be able to keep your rates about the same. Third, it is good to consider several different companies and plans. Rates are similar, but some companies tend to be tighter in their underwriting, and their rate increases year by year are more controlled. Finally, every three to four years look at some other plans or reapply for the plan you are still on. Often, if you are healthy, you can save 20-25 percent on your insurance premium by switching plans or by reapplying for the same coverage.
The importance of pre-certification
Pre-certification means that the insurance company and medical foundation must approve the medical care you are requesting. Sometimes this is called “utilization review.” You are given a phone number to verify that the medical treatment you are requesting will be paid for by your insurance. This is how insurance companies make sure that no undue operations or medical procedures take place. By so doing they are able to keep insurance premiums lower for each of us. The real question pre-certification seeks to answer is: Is the care being requested by the client medically necessary? So you might be asking, “what is the importance of pre-certification?”
Companies have different policies as to when pre-certification takes place. Some say you must pre-certify 48 hours before an operation, some say 7 days, and others say 2 weeks. Of course, emergencies are a different matter, but even those must be reported to the company within a specific time limit. Read your policy to determine pre-certification requirements. Pre-certification is not necessary for ordinary visits to your physician. But for major care such as MRIs, CAT scans, x-rays, lab work, in-patient and outpatient surgery, ALWAYS call the pre-certification number on your insurance card. The rule of thumb: If in doubt whether your insurance will cover a medical expense, phone your pre-certification number first and find out.
Also remember that your insurance may not cover what your doctor insists is “medically- necessary” care. For example, a person may have an alcohol problem, and the doctor suggests treatment for substance abuse. The treatment may be “medically necessary,” but the insurance policy may exclude coverage for “substance abuse.” Carefully read the “Exclusion” page of your policy. Remember the rule: When you are considering any major medical care or expense, always pre-certify.
Why insurance is cancelled
Insurance is cancelled for numerous reasons, but one that is avoidable is forgetting to pay the premium. I have a good wife who handles all our finances. She keeps her fingers on things like this. But not all of us are super-efficient and many have a myriad of responsibilities. We have had several cases recently where insurance was cancelled because a client failed to pay. If we are aware of a late payment, we do call you. The best way to avoid late payments is to get on a “Sure Pay” system where your insurance premium is automatically deducted from your checking account. I have one friend who developed a serious medical problem while insured, forgot to make a monthly payment, and was then cancelled from her insurance. Due to her medical problem her insurance company denied her coverage when she reapplied. She was uninsured due to forgetting to pay her premium and uninsurable due to a new medical condition. The best way to guarantee your policy will not be cancelled is to pay your premium through an automatic bank withdrawal program.