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How to choose the best international health insurance

What should you look for when choosing an international health insurance provider? We run through some of the things you should expect, and what makes an expat health insurance provider stand out from the rest.

Choosing the best international health insurance for expats

If you’re thinking of moving abroad, or if you’re already living abroad and looking for an international health insurance provider who will go the extra mile, this guide is for you.

What to look for when choosing international health insurance?

All international health insurance policies will differ, so it’s important to know what to look for when choosing coverage for you and your family. When looking for the best international health insurance, you need to consider the below points:

  • Not all international health insurance policies will include the same level of coverage and the range of treatments offered may vary– so make sure to read your policy wording very carefully
  • Make sure you understand what your policy does and does not cover – and be aware of how pre-existing conditions could affect your policy
  • Choosing an international health insurance provider isn’t just about finding the right policy at the right price – you also need to make sure you can trust the company to provide honest, professional advice
  • With William Russell, you can tailor your policy to suit your and your family’s needs – start a quote with us today to find out what you could be entitled to and how much it will cost

What should your international health insurance cover?

You will need international health insurance that can provide at least the minimum level of coverage. This should include coverage for:

  • emergency hospital treatment
  • treatment of serious illnesses
  • treatment of any ongoing chronic disorders you may have

You should also consider other policy benefits such as:

Before taking out a new international health insurance policy, it is important to read the policy wording and any other documents related to the policy very carefully, in order to make sure you’re choosing the right level of cover for your needs, and that you know what to do if you need to make a claim.

In this guide, we’ll run through some common questions you may ask yourself when taking out a new international health insurance policy and offer tips on how to ensure you choose the best policy to suit your needs.

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Is international health insurance the same as travel insurance?

Travel insurance is intended for short stays in another country or journeys that take place over a set period.

It covers many things other than health, such as cancelled or delayed journeys, lost or stolen luggage and death in an accident while abroad.

Travel insurance will provide you with medical insurance to cover emergencies, and some policies will also offer medical evacuation and repatriation. But it won’t cover everyday medical costs or the treatment of chronic conditions.

In some instances, the cost of travel insurance can be higher, especially in the long-term, than the cost of international health insurance. Furthermore, many travel insurance policies have a capped term, which is often around 31 days.

This ultimately means that expatriates will struggle to access the right healthcare if they are depending on travel insurance.

How much should international health insurance cost?

When taking out an international health insurance policy, you should have the flexibility to decide on the level of cover, and the monthly premiums that suit you your budget.

Remember that no two international health insurance policies will cost the same. This is because the cost is calculated based on:

  • Where you live and which countries you need cover in
  • Your age and medical history
  • Any optional extras you choose, such as dental coverage

In 2020, the average annual premium for international health insurance at William Russell was $3,470. Find out more about how much international health insurance costs here.

In summary, a good international health insurance policy should provide everything you and your family need at a cost that suits your budget. It should be scaled according to your needs and the country or countries you will be living in. It should also give the flexibility to choose the add-ons you need.

The cost of international health insurance varies greatly
Find out more about average costs

What can I claim for?

A good international health insurance policy should allow you to claim for a variety of healthcare costs. You should have peace of mind that, if you experience the sudden onset of illness or need emergency treatment, you can rely on your policy to foot the bill for any expenses.

William Russell cover

With William Russell’s minimum level (Bronze) coverage, you could be covered (up to a set number of days and/or budget per period of cover) for:

  • Hospital fees, including out-patient treatments and in-patient stays in at least a semi-private room, treatments, drugs, surgical dressings, operating theatre charges, diagnostic tests and more, plus ambulance transfer and accommodation for parents staying with children under 18
  • Cancer treatment, including chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy, consultations, tests, scans and drugs, plus costs towards reparative treatment after completing therapy
  • Costs related to organ, bone marrow and tissue transplant procedures
  • Kidney dialysis treatment
  • Mental health treatment in a recognised mental health unit of a hospital
  • HIV/AIDS treatment
  • Out-patient surgical procedures
  • Advanced diagnostic tests
  • Physiotherapy
  • Emergency restorative dental costs
  • Home nursing costs, hospice and palliative care
  • And more…

Just to make you aware, some benefits include preventive health checks for adults, such as health screens, mammograms, prostate and colon cancer screens, flu jabs, hearing tests, and eye examinations. Some of the benefits above are subject to a waiting period. Waiting period is the length of time your plan must cover you before you can claim for a particular benefit.

Extra cover

William Russell also offers three additional tiers of membership to suit your needs and budget, SilverLite, Silver and Gold, which include additional tiers of coverage (subject to waiting periods).

This entitles members to additional coverage, including:

  • Maternity cover, including routine maternity care and routine care of newborns, plus costs associated with emergency surgical procedures during childbirth (Gold)
  • Dental Basic (optional on SilverLite and Silver, and standard on Gold) and Dental Plus (optional on Silver and upwards), entitling the member to screening, scaling and polishing and sealing, fillings, simple extractions and root canal treatment (with Dental Basic), and denture repair, full and partial dentures, dental bridges, crowns, inlays and onlays and dental implants (with Dental Plus)
  • Well-being benefits (with Silver and Gold), including preventive health checks such as health screens, PAP tests, mammograms, prostate and colon cancer screens, flu jabs, hearing tests and eye examinations; vaccinations and immunisations required under your resident country’s regulations; and well-being benefits including check-ups for children and routine vaccinations
  • And more…

When choosing an international health insurance policy, make sure to read your policy wording closely to make sure you’re choosing the right level of cover to suit your and your family’s needs.

What is medical evacuation (Medevac) insurance?

If you suffer a life or limb-threatening condition, and are unable to find adequate healthcare facilities in your local area or country of residence, you may be entitled to a medical evacuation.

This is where your international health insurance provider will offer to transfer you (and a member of your family) to either a) a nearby or neighbouring region or country that has higher-quality healthcare facilities or b) your home country.

At William Russell, all our policies include Medevac Basic as standard. This covers your transport by air or surface to your nearest hospital within your area of cover where appropriate medical treatment is available. It also covers the return airfare to your country of residence, plus the travel expenses of a companion (excludes USA).

What is medical evacuation and why might you need it?
Find out how it works

What else should you look for?

Choosing an international health insurance policy isn’t just about the level of cover you’ll receive. You’ll also want to be sure that you’ll get service from your insurer, so that when it comes time to take out a policy or make a claim, you have all the information you need.

When looking for an international health insurance policy, make sure you look at these things:

Claims process

  • Does your insurer offer clear, straightforward information to help guide you through the claim process?
  • Does your policy wording make crystal clear what you can and can’t claim for?
  • Does the claims process seem easy to start, remembering that you may be sick or in hospital when you need to claim?

William Russell offers a 24-hour claims hotline, so that you can access claims advice from anywhere in the world at any time. When it comes time to make a claim, you can submit all your documentation online through our claims portal.

Customer service

  • Does your insurer deal with your claim directly, or will they pass you from person to person?
  • Will they provide easy access to a claims manager, at a time and in a way that suits you (remembering there may a time difference between your country of residence and the country your insurance provider is based in)?
  • Do they have a good rating for customer service on online review aggregators like Feefo and Trustpilot?

At William Russell, when you make a claim you’ll be connected to a personal claims manager who will help to guide you through the whole process, ensuring you’re informed about your entitlements every step of the way.


  • Does your insurer specialise in international health insurance for expats? Or is international health insurance one of a wide range of products they offer covering the whole spectrum of insurance services?

If it’s the latter, there is a chance they may not be as expert on dealing with claims in your country or to cover your specific treatment(s).

At William Russell, we have provided insurance products exclusively for international expatriates for 30 years, and we have experience working in over 180 countries.

Other things to look out for when choosing international health insurance

Once you’ve decided on the type and level of cover you need, and the kind of company you want to take out your policy with, there are just a few final questions to ask yourself.

Know your country

Do you know the local healthcare situation in your country or countries of residence? Depending on the type of healthcare system it has, you may need a specific level of cover. For instance, some international healthcare insurance providers offer separate policies for families moving to or living in the USA.

Are you covered for pre-existing conditions?

International health insurance policies will require that you specify pre-existing conditions at the point you take out your policy. If you have already been diagnosed for, or received treatment for a pre-existing condition (e.g. diabetes), you will need to seek authorisation for these conditions. If you don’t arrange cover for these conditions ahead of time, you will not be able to claim for them, or any related conditions (i.e. those caused as a direct result of a pre-existing condition) while moving or living abroad.

What won’t international health insurance cover?

Your policy will have exclusions. These are situations you will not be covered for. They may include:

  • Injuries sustained or illnesses contracted in the line of work, if your job is deemed to be high-risk
  • Treatment for illness or injury related to taking part in motorised or extreme sports as an amateur or a professional
  • Acts of intentional self-harm and suicide
  • Injuries or illnesses sustained while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, or treatments related to an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol
  • And more…

Always read your policy wording very carefully to see what is and isn’t covered.

Looking for the best international health insurance for expats?

If you’d like to know more about the cover William Russell offers, start an international health insurance quote with us today.

By starting a quote, you will:

  • Be able to construct your ideal policy for yourself, yourself and a partner or for your whole family
  • See a price for your preferred policy
  • Be able to speak to our award winning customer service team to learn more about your policy, including what is and isn’t covered

Moving to another country is a huge undertaking. But, when you go with international health insurance from William Russell, you can rest assured you’ll benefit from our 30 years’ experience working with expats like you, all around the world.

Speak to us today to find out more.

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