|Question: I'm planning on living in Europe for several months. Do I need special health insurance?|
Unless you're in the military or working for an American company abroad that has a health plan in place, you'll need to make sure that your health insurance will cover your needs--and don't wait until you're already sick or injured to do it.
If you're planning to travel overseas, be aware that your health insurance plan may not cover you at all. Most managed care plans, such as health maintenance organizations (HMOs) or preferred provider organizations (PPOs), will cover emergency treatment. But HMOs may pay nothing if you see an out-of-network health-care provider for routine care, while PPOs will pay only part of the cost. So before you set foot on foreign soil, check the limitations of your policy and call your insurer's customer service department if you have any questions.
If you're going to be away for less than six months, a short-term supplemental health insurance policy may be sufficient for your needs. These policies are available from insurance companies or travel agents, and they offer accident and sickness coverage. However, read the policy carefully because the coverage is often limited.
If you'll be out of the United States for more than six months, you may want to purchase expatriate health insurance. Underwritten by large insurers such as Lloyd's of London, these policies offer standard emergency and routine care coverage, and can be customized to meet your specific needs. Be sure to check for pre-existing condition limitations, including pregnancy. Options available include maternity coverage, acupuncture, chiropractic services, language translation and foreign currency exchanges, and even emergency evacuation coverage. The application process for expatriate health insurance can be detailed and extensive; you'll have to list any health problems you've had in the past 10 years. The cost of a plan will depend on several factors, such as your age, state of health, sex, and travel itinerary.