Q. We live in China right now but we don’t have health insurance for the times we come back to the states. What kind of insurance can we get?
A. Travel insurance is offered by a wide range of insurance carriers, and plans are available for coverage in the country where you’re currently residing, or for when you travel abroad – including to the United States. Most health insurance brokers can assist you in finding a policy that will meet your needs.
Travel insurance is not regulated by the ACA. That means that the policies still use medical underwriting, do not have to cover pre-existing conditions (or can impose a waiting period for them), do not have to cover the Affordable Care Act’s essential health benefits, and can impose benefit maximums.
But they are generally the best option available to people who are traveling outside their country of residence, since most health insurance policies (both U.S. and foreign) do not tend to cover care received abroad. And because the policies are still underwritten, they are available year-round and the application process is generally quick and simple.
If you return permanently to the United States (which means for “an entire season or other long period of time”), you’ll have access to a special enrollment period triggered by your move. This will allow you to enroll in any ACA-compliant individual/family plan available in your new area, on or off-exchange. The special enrollment period triggered by a permanent move generally only applies to people who had minimum essential coverage for at least one of the 60 days prior to the move. But people who are moving back to the US from abroad are specifically exempt from that requirement.
Louise Norris is an individual health insurance broker who has been writing about health insurance and health reform since 2006. She has written dozens of opinions and educational pieces about the Affordable Care Act for healthinsurance.org. Her state health exchange updates are regularly cited by media who cover health reform and by other health insurance experts.