Indian visitors spent a record US$13.6 billion in America last year, positioning India on the sixth spot among the top 10 international markets for the US, in terms of visitor spending. As many as 1.17 million Indians visited the US in 2016, taking India to #11 in terms of the number of international visitors to the US in 2016, according to an article in The Economic Times.
According to a survey conducted by CWT Connected Traveller, more than two-thirds, i.e., 68% of travellers invest in a Traveller Insurance, as reported in an article on Special Events. Visitor’s Health Insurance is an important feature of travel insurance, especially when you travel to USA, where medical costs are very high. Well, it is not an unknown fact that the dollar-rupee rate average is ₹66 to $1. So, basically you cannot afford to fall ill in a country already known for its exorbitant medical costs unless you will get reimbursed. Health care costs are the highest in the world in America, says a blog post on Vox.
So, now the basic question that arises is whether you buy insurance in India or when you reach USA.
Two Types of Visitor’s Medical Insurance
There are two basic plans for medical insurance for visitors to USA: Limited and Comprehensive Plans. Limited plans are basic policies at a low cost. They offer coverage for a fixed time and pay for covered expenses up to an amount that is pre-determined. On the other hand, comprehensive plans offer more benefits, along with coverage for acute onset of pre-existing conditions, according to Wikipedia.
Here’s a look at the pros and cons of getting insurance from India vs USA.
When Should You Buy Medical Insurance in USA
Here are a few major factors that make insurance in USA advantageous:
- PPO Network:
Assuming you have chosen a comprehensive plan because they offer more coverage, you will find that these plans are aligned to a PPO network. PPO stands for “Preferred Provider Organizations.” When you go to a hospital or clinic that is part of this network, they will have no problem in recognizing and billing the correct entity. They will contact the provider directly and the payment will be made. This network doesn’t recognize most of the Indian insurance companies. So, imagine you have an emergency and the hospital says that they won’t accept your insurance card because the network doesn’t recognize the company. You will be in a fix and will have to pay the charges upfront. Visiting a healthcare center outside the network will also disqualify you from the discounted network fees.
- Grievance Issues:
If you are in a need of immediate assistance, you will be able to contact the company immediately, since they will be in a similar time zone. Indian insurance companies are available 24X7 too, but in a different time zone. The key decision makers might only be available within the office hours. In the case of a disputed claim filed in the United States, there might be an issue of regulatory jurisdiction. Indian insurance regulators might not recognize your dispute. On the other hand, US-based insurance providers, being fully regulated, need to pay heed to any disputes that may arise, says a blog post on Visitors Coverage.
- Renewal and Cancellation Policies:
US policies are renewable and cancellable. You can renew the policy depending upon your needs. Indian insurers mostly do not offer renewable policies, and if they do, you might have to re-purchase the plan, which is very different from renewing it.
When You Buy Medical Insurance from India
When you buy insurance from India, the major advantage you have is the cost. A policy with medical cover upwards of $250,000 in the US could cost you around $700-$750 a year, with sub-limits like out-patient, dental and sports-related treatments, while you can buy similar travel cover for ₹15,000 – ₹20,000 in India, according to an article on Livemint.
But the benefits of having US-based insurance outweigh that of an Indian one because they provide much more protection. Check out these factors before you buy an Indian plan (which I don’t recommend anyways).
- Choose insurance that caters to the US health care industry, and has foreign offices too. US-based insurers have been in the market for a long time, and are rated A, A+, A++ by a rating company, such as AM Best.
- Indian Fixed Coverage plans do not usually cater to people older than 50. Look out for plans that have sub-limits; they are actually fixed ones, even though they are termed as comprehensive.
- Make sure they provide the benefit for treatment of sudden, acute onset of pre-medical condition, especially when the plan involves your parents. Most Indian Insurance plans do not cover this.
In conclusion, buying overseas travel insurance or online will save you huge out-of-pocket expenses and, more importantly, solve your cash or credit card limit problems. It is a small price to pay for a memorable and hassle-free holiday or business trip.