The quality of health care in US is one of the best in the world, but they come at a pretty high cost. If you or your parents are planning a visit to USA, it is strongly advised to buy an insurance before hand. Buying an insurance can be tricky as there are tons of options available with low to very high premiums. Here are few things to keep in mind while buying visitor medical insurance for Indian parents:
- Online insurance brokers and providers: There are tons of insurance broker websites available which have tie ups with multiple insurance providers with varying premiums and services. In my experience, I found visitorscoverage.com and insubuy.com as the two most reputed brokers. They have tie ups with good insurance providers like Atlas America, Patriot America Plus etc and are known for good support and service.
- VisitorsCoverage.com: This is the most popular choice to buy & compare various different insurance plans. They have more than 35 plans to choose from with varying premiums and coverage catering to various needs of visitors. I have heard really good reviews about Atlas America and Patriot America Plus plans as both cover Acute Onset of Pre-Existing conditions up to the policy max. I personally used them to buy Atlas America plans and was quite pleased with the overall experience. Their customer support, web portal is good too. Their website has video library with nice tutorials to help users understand some of the tricky insurance terminologies. They are one of the few brokers listed on the US Department of State site as an reputed insurance provider for visitors.
- Insubuy.com: Again a good broker for comparing various insurance plans and options. They also provide various options of insurance plans with varying premiums and coverage. Again, I would recommend, Atlas America and Patriot America Plus plans as they have best coverage plans. They too have good customer support too. They allow you to renew and refund if visitor’s travel plan changes. For any specific questions, call insubuy.com support and ask them for the options. They too have articles and blog posts to help customers understand insurance scenarios and terms. I found this post quite useful on Insubuy, it takes you through various scenarios and suggests the plan one should choose.
- There are some other options available at www.kvrao.org, www.sevencorners.com, www.nriol.net, www.indnet.org with similar insurance plans and options. I do not have much experience with them though. If you have any feedback from using them, let me know.
- Fixed Coverage or Comprehensive: These are two types of insurance plans each with different coverage, deductible and premium fees. Its important to understand the difference between them as your contribution could vary drastically if you do end up using the medical facilities.
- Fixed coverage plans – As the name suggests, it provides limited coverage and your entire coverage amount is predetermined for each type of medical service procedure. (for eg, it will cover $100 for each doctor visit, $600 for lab tests, $500 for emergency visit etc). Note that these amounts are often not enough and you might have to contribute a large portion of the overall fees. (For eg, I know someone whose parents had to pay one emergency room visit and their bill ended up being $6000 and their fixed coverage insurance covered them upto $500 only). You should choose this option only if visitor has a healthy history and does not plan to stay here for more than a week.
- Comprehensive coverage plans – Comprehensive plans offer percentage based coverage. i.e. depending on the plan you choose, they usually cover from 75% to 100% of the bill after the deductible, up to policy maximum. You can choose your deductible amount too (higher the deductible, lower the premium). For example if a typical comprehensive plan would offer you a coverage of $50,000 Policy Maximum, $500 deductible and 80% coverage upto $2500 and 100% beyond that. Now, imagine you had to undergo a surgery that costed you $20,000, you shall be required to pay, $3900 (20 % of (20,000 – 500)).
- PPO network – Most comprehensive plans have the advantage of having a Preferred Providers Network (PPO). This means that if you go to doctors within the PPO Network, you get a reduced rate, negotiated between the providers and the insurance company. However you are not obligated to go to doctors within the network. Also the Providers within the PPO Network tend to bill the insurance company directly, than asking the member to pay upfront. If you know the provider you are most likely to visit (a hospital near by), check if they are part of the PPO network.
- Pre-existing condition coverage – Most of the plans DO NOT cover pre-existing conditions. However, a few do cover acute onset of pre-existing conditions i.e. if a person has diabetes, this won’t cover for the treatments for diabetes and regular medicine, but will cover any complications due to diabetes. Read through the policy terms & conditions before buying though. Atlas America and Patriot America Plus both cover offer these coverages. If you limit your visits to PPO providers, Atlas America is a great option.
- Administration and Support – Check if the claims are settled within US itself and they have the capability to pay the fees upfront. Also, check if they provide an insurance Id card, it makes the whole claim process so much smoother.
My two cents:
- I have had really good experiences with Atlas America insurance from HCC in the past. I visited a PPO provider and the entire process was cashless and smooth.
- If your parents have pre-existing medical conditions, do plan to buy a policy that covers acute onset due to pre-existing conditions. You can read more about it here. Also, read through this article which explains how onset of pre-existing conditions are covered.
- Some states (like Washington) requires the visitor to buy insurance before they land in US. Make sure you are aware of any such requirement as you look up the plans.
- I would suggest to include international flying days too while buying the insurance. With a little extra premium, you can have the piece of mind while your loved ones are travelling.
- Avoid taking insurance from Indian companies like ICICI Lombard. Reimbursement is biggest pain and frustration ever. Read through this post for more information.