The Need for International Coverage
When traveling overseas, either on a short-term mission trip, or on a long-term basis, traditional sources of US private, group, or HMO health insurance most times will not meet your needs. Geographical exclusions and provider limitations common to these policies will restrict or even eliminate the health insurance coverage available to you while you are outside the USA.
At the same time, you may not be eligible for participation in a foreign government run health care system. Most Americans desire not to get involved with government run health care, but want access to health care in other countries on their own terms.
When Emergencies Hit
In the event of a dire emergency, where you need to be air evacuated from one country to another for proper treatment, who pays for this tremendous expense? A missionary serving in Papua New Guinea recently had to be air evacuated to Australia, then to Germany and then on to the USA for treatment. Fortunately, her international health insurance paid every dime of the $96,000 bill! Her Stateside HMO would not have covered this expense!
In the event you die overseas, who pays for the return of remains back to America for burial? A missionary serving in Peru died while mountain climbing and once again the international health insurance was there, so her family did not have to cope with the $10,000 + expense of returning the remains. Her Stateside group plan would not have covered this claim!
What about the question of legal liability? More and more organizations now require anyone (short, medium, or long-term missionaries and expatriates) leaving the USA to obtain international health insurance. Rightly so, they don't want the responsibility or liability of any claim that might occur while their people are traveling or living outside the USA.
The Good News!
The good news is that US style health insurance plans are now available at very reasonable rates for individuals or groups who are going overseas. These plans can be written to cover a few days trip, up to a full time long-term basis. These plans can cover up to $5,000,000.00 of major medical expenses, plus emergency medical evacuation, repatriation of mortal remains, accidental death, and they automatically include other important features.
There are missionary and expatriate plans that can provide coverage on both sides of the ocean, so when a long-term worker comes home on furlough, they don't have to worry about buying a second plan here in the USA.
Group quotes can be obtained for long term workers, which provide solid, dependable, health insurance anywhere in the their travels might take them; even while on furlough back in the States.
Group quotes are also available for short-term groups who travel overseas together. These quotes are good for anyone traveling throughout the year. Many times these quotes are provided with a daily rate, so if one person is going for 14 days they pay only for 14 days, while the next worker may be gone for 38 days - so forth and so on! These are very popular because they are "tailor made" to fit the particular organization’s needs. They are made easy too, since each traveler doesn't have to complete any paperwork! If a mission agency makes insurance mandatory for all of their short term "trippers", the daily rate drops even more!
One last item to consider for anyone going long term is life insurance. Many US life insurance companies frown on insuring the life of missionaries serving in other countries. To fulfill this need, seek out an "international" life company. Lloyds of London, for example, provides affordable coverage for US missionaries and expatriates living overseas.