International travel medical insurance plans are primarily designed to provide coverage while traveling outside the home country. However, many travel medical insurance plans include coverage for 'incidental home country coverage' and/or 'end of trip home country coverage'.
Incidental Home Country Coverage
When you are traveling abroad for a relatively longer duration, situations may arise where you may need to travel back to your home country for a short duration, and then return to your destination afterwards. Such reasons may include but not limited to:
- Work related emergency
- Spending time with family during holiday like Spring Break, Christmas, or other breaks
- Unexpected personal event of a family member or friend such as wedding, funeral or pregnancy
If you are traveling abroad for an extended duration, you would most likely not be maintaining the domestic health insurance in your home country. Therefore, incidental home country coverage can be very useful.
The exact duration and conditions of the coverage vary based on the travel medical insurance product you purchase. However, the following are common scenarios:
- Maximum of 14 consecutive days
- 15 or 30 days of incidental home country coverage for every 3 months of coverage purchased, provided the incidental home country coverage is utilized after 3 months
- Five days of incidental home country coverage for every one month of coverage purchased, maximum up to 60 days per 12 months of total coverage
Some travel medical insurance plans don't provide any incidental home country coverage at all. Others may provide a reduced medical policy maximum for treatment needed during an incidental home country visit.
In any case, you must not be traveling to your home country to receive treatment. Also, if your medical condition is not covered by your travel medical insurance in your destination country, and it is too expensive to pay out of your pocket, the insurance company can't pay to send you back home to receive covered treatment in your home country.
Please look at the certificate wording of the travel medical insurance plan you are considering purchasing for the specific details.
If you would like health insurance that allows you to travel back to your home country for treatment or in general, you need to travel to your home country longer than the incidental home country coverage allows, you can consider purchasing expatriate health insurance, which provides annually renewable major medical insurance that can include coverage in the home country.
End of Trip Home Country Coverage
Most people who travel abroad for an extensive period may not maintain a domestic health insurance in their home country. Additionally, once they return to their home country, they may not have health insurance in place the day they return. It may take time, up to a month or longer, before they can enroll into domestic health insurance or receive health insurance coverage through their employer.
Also, when returning home from a long trip abroad, buying health insurance may not be the top priority for many. You may be busy catching up with family or friends, dealing with jet lag, or simply adjusting to life back in your home country. In such situations, end of trip home country coverage can provide a valuable health coverage. Many travel medical insurance plans do not provide such coverage, but some do. If this is important coverage for you, make sure to look for in the travel medical insurance plan you purchase.
Even though the exact duration of coverage may vary in different plans, the common scenarios are:
- 1 month of end of trip home country coverage for every 5 months of travel outside the home country - maximum 2 months coverage
- 1 month of end of trip home country coverage for every 4 months of travel outside the home country - maximum 3 months coverage
- No end of trip home country coverage
End of trip home country coverage is meant to provide coverage if you were to have a new medical condition or injury after returning home. It would not provide any broader coverage than what it would normally cover outside your home country. In fact, it may restrict the medical policy maximum to a lower limit in this situation.
If you are an international student studying abroad, you should consider health insurance that may provide end of trip home country coverage. Once you complete your studies and return to your home country, it might take some time for you to find a job that would provide you with health insurance.
Even though you may think that you won't need end of trip home country coverage because you will make arrangements for domestic health insurance on the day you arrive back home from your planned trip; however, you may unexpectedly need to return home due to urgent business work, death or sickness of relatives, weddings, or other unexpected events. Having end of trip home country coverage is useful for unanticipated situations.
In any case, if your travel medical insurance plan does not provide end of trip home country coverage or if you need temporary coverage longer than what it provides, you can consider purchasing short term health insurance. Please keep in mind that such coverage is not available in all states.