International Medical Insurance

January 1, 2010

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General Information

Domestic U.S. health insurance policies generally do not provide adequate coverage to plan members who travel outside of the United States. Those few policies that do provide coverage during international travel exclude the cost of obtaining and translating medical records, language translations for billing and patient care issues, and currency translations. For this reason most Americans traveling outside the United States are advised to obtain separate international medical insurance for their trip that seamlessly handles all of these issues.

Appropriate Use

International medical insurance policies are intended for: 1) Americans who travel outside of the United States, and 2) citizens of other countries who travel within the United States. 

Inappropriate Use

International medical insurance is not appropriatefor: 1) United States residents who travel abroad and return to the U.S. temporarily, and 2) citizens of other countries traveling outside of the United States.


Generally, anyone healthy enough to travel is eligible for international medical insurance. See the specific eligibility questions on the online application form. Age, citizenship or medical condition are generally not an obstacle.

Application and Policy Issue

Policies are usually priced and issued online and ID cards may be printed immediately or mailed. An overnight delivery option is available.


The cost is lower than regular U. S. health insurance. Part of the reason that the cost is lower is that coverage for pre-existing medical conditions is limited. The other reason is that travelers tend to incur fewer significant medical costs than other populations overall.

Coverage Period

Insurance is issued for a period ranging from 15 days (the shortest policy) to several years or even longer term renewable coverage.

Insurance Companies

Three insurance companies collectively issue most of this coverage in the United States. All three insurance carriers are reputable, competitively priced, and offer similar benefits. MedSave.com suggests International Medical Group (IMG) and Seven Cornersas the top choices.

Situations to Avoid

The most common misunderstanding about international medical insurance involves U.S. citizens who attempt to use this coverage to obtain treatment for family members or loved ones who are not living in the U.S. This insurance should not be used by a non-U.S. citizen to travel to the United States to obtain medical treatment for a previously known medical problem.


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