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 are planning to buy parents insurance, it is strongly advised to buy one before hand. Buying an insurance plan 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 insurance for parents visiting USA:
Choose the insurance plan wisely:
While choosing an insurance plan, one should keep these key factors in mind: maximum coverage limit, deductible, coverage of pre-existing conditions, cost, availability in your local area. This table below shows a comparative study of three of the most popular parents insurance plans:
|Plans||Atlas America||Patriot America Plus||Choice America|
|Pre-Existing conditions coverage||Covers acute onset of pre-existing conditions +||Covers acute onset of pre-existing conditions +||Limited coverage of pre-existing conditions|
|Coverage during travel||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Coverage within PPO network||100%||90% for first 5K, then 100%||Fixed amount for each service and treatment|
|Coverage outside PP network||50% for first 5k, then 100%||80% for first 5k, then 100%||Fixed amount for each service and treatment|
|PPO network**||Yes, Extensive list of doctors and hospitals. Complete list here.||Yes, Extensive list of doctors and hospitals. Complete list here.||No PPO network|
|Limitations||Not allowed for NewYork, WA and Maryland state residents||Not allowed for Maryland state residents||Not allowed for Maryland state residents|
* Cost: For a coverage of 100K for 1 month for single person aged 60.
** PPO stands for Preferred Provider Organization. Read PPO Network section below for more details.
+ Read the section ‘Pre-existing condition coverge’ below for details.
Desicompile recommends: Use ‘Atlas America‘ or ‘Patriot America Plus‘ if your parents are over 60 and/or have any pre-existing condition. I have consistently used them in past and have been quite pleased with their experience.
Comprehensive or Fixed coverage:
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)).
Desicompile recommends: Always use ‘Comprehensive’ plans as visitor medical insurance for parents visiting USA since they cover 80-100% of the treatment costs (based on your insurance plan).
Where to Buy:
visitorscoverage.com and insubuy.com are the two most reputed brokers who offer wide variety of insurance plans with varying premiums and coverages. 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 have 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 for parents visiting USA. I do not have much experience with them though. If you have any feedback from using them, let me know.
Desicompile recommends: Use www.visitorscoverage.com to buy your insurance plan as they are most reputed and provide the best service and customer care experience. TrustPilot.com rates them 9.3/10 with 250-odd reviews and most of them are positive.
Pre-existing condition coverage:
If your parents have any pre-existing medical conditions, do consider buying plans which cover them (at least partially). Most of the plans offered in USA, DO NOT cover pre-existing conditions. However, there are a few who 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 offer these coverage. For parents aged over 70, Patriot Platinum offers this coverage.
Most plans have extensive PPO network across the country. 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. Do some research in your local area to find out hospitals and doctors covered in PPO of the plan providers. You can use this link to find out doctors/hospitals that are covered by PPO network of PatrioAmerica Plus. For eg, in Sunnyvale area of California, El Camino, Santa Clara Valley medical center, Palo Alto VAMC etc are covered. Similarly for Plano area in Dallas, The Park at Plano, Medical center at Plano etc are covered.
Desicompile recommends: Do extensive research using these links: Atlas America PPO providers and Patriot America PPO providers before deciding on one of these plans. Ideally, choose a hospital that you are most likely to visit nearby and check if they are covered. I would recommend calling their customer care in case its not obvious from the links above.
Should I consider Indian travel insurance providers:
Indian medical insurance providers like ICICI Lombard, HDFC Ergo etc do not have extensive tie-ups with hospitals and providers and you might end up paying the cost upfront and then filing a reimbursement claims. I have heard stories of people not being able to claim those bills and dealing with their customer care being a nightmare.
Desicompile recommends: Stay away from Indian insurance providers for buying parents insurance unless you do not mind paying the cost upfront. Read through this post for more information.
My two cents:
- 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 parents insurance before they land. 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.
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