The international or foreign health insurance has to cover the benefits of the normal health insurance when being in a foreign country. The international health insurance normally has to be concluded separately and it is furthermore a private insurance. If being insured with the compulsory insurance in Germany and wanting to go abroad for travelling or even longer (up to 5 years) it is necessary to have a foreign health insurance. The compulsory insurance normally doesn’t cover benefits in foreign countries especially if the destination of travel is not member of the European Union. If being insured private it is possible that the insurance covers some countries. But be careful if the stay takes longer than a normal holiday for example if going abroad to study or work.

Who needs an international health insurance?

The international health insurance can also be a travel insurance. It then covers mostly short holiday trips and can also be concluded for the whole family or for those travelling a lot, for the whole year.

Those travelling a lot for their work do definitely need an international health insurance. In some cases the employer does pay for this.

Long stays like travels, study or internship stays as well as working in a foreign country have to be insured as well. Especially with long stays it is worth looking close to the details and comparing the different benefits and costs of the different insurances.

The can be exceptions with travelling the European Union. Between the members of the EU there are special social insurance conducts and they give protection with the former insurance in the other countries as well. It is mostly necessary to have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Students spending all of their study time abroad or employees working or a longer period in another European country should ass their insurance if there is a time limit.

What does the international health insurance cover?

The international health insurance has to protect the insured person in medical treatment and guarantee the treatment in the other country. In contrary to the insurance at home it is however made for emergencies and urgent treatments and does for example not cover prevention or psychological treatment. It should cover the following points:

  • Ambulant and residential medical treatment, meaning consultation, analysis, operation and hospital stay
  • Basic dental treatment
  • Costs for medicines and pharmaceutical products
  • In case you need it – glasses or contact lenses
  • Accidental additives
  • Curative treatment (e.g. physiotherapy, massage, etc.)
  • Transport to the next hospital
  • Pregnancy and treatment of the newborn
  • Return transport to the home country in case of very fatal disease or injuries as well as in case of death
  • Visit of a relative person in hospital

In case of pregnancy it is important to check what benefits are covered in a foreign country and how broad they are. Athletes, going abroad to train or to take a competition also may need special packages, to be insured in case of an accident.

Invalids with chronic illnesses or pre-injuries have to look twice if their treatment is covered, in most times these aren’t covered by the international health insurance. It is however possible that the German insurance covers these costs in foreign countries as well.

You also have to check if the return transport is sure also if it isn’t necessary but only arguable. These are small differences in the contract but in the worst case it could mean that you need to pay the transport by yourself.

Furthermore, the costs for travelling out of medical issues or for treatment abroad aren’t covered. Also mental and emotional illnesses aren’t covered as well as psychotherapy. The international health insurance doesn’t pay for massage, health resorts and sanitarium. If there is a warning for the country of travel from the Department of Foreign Affairs because of riots and demonstration for political issues the costs for injuries in these countries aren’t covered.

Period of validity and fees

The international health insurance can be flexible in its period of validity, so it can cover the whole stay abroad but you do not have to pay after being back home. The period has to be defined before leaving, though. Extensions or prior ending can be difficult. It depends on the provider and the contract. It is important though, that there are no gaps in insurance and protection. If you want to quit the contract with the provider of the former insurance make sure you take care that the other insurance is valid before quitting. You shouldn’t enter the destination of travel without insurance to search for an insurance there.

On the one hand the fees depend on the extend of the benefits, from age and health status of the insured person and on the other hand there are also differences in countries. For example the fees for USA and Canada are the highest because these countries have a very expensive health system.

Students and employees

If planning to study abroad the whole studies or just for one or two terms it is also important to ask if the host university has its own health insurance. Mainly in USA and Canada it is common that the students are insured with the university. For international students this is often not enough because this insurance doesn’t cover return transport or other benefits. You should think about taking an additional international health insurance for these benefits.

When working abroad for a German company one stays in the German social insurance system and has to be insured. The employer normally takes the cost for an international health insurance. Without this protection from the company one has to think about some things. Does the foreign company take my insurance costs or parts of them? Can I take an insurance from the foreign country or do I need an international insurance? How long does it take to get into the system of the other country? Do I need an additional insurance for single benefits or for the time between the insurances? Etc.

What to do in case of emergency or illness?

Every insurance company has a number for emergency cases. If something has happened and you need to go to hospital call this number as soon as possible so the insurance can cover the costs and knows what has happened. With small and normal medical treatment you normally pay the amount by yourself first and get it back from the insurance when showing the bill. Keep the bills safe so you get your money back later! If the treatment is very expensive it is possible that the insurance pays right away but you should have a credit card to show the doctors.

For normal medical treatment the insurance can also give advice what doctors are good in your area.

The choice for the perfect insurance is important and shouldn’t be done quickly and inconsiderate. The insurance should be suitable for the situation, the period of time being abroad and the destination country.