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Heading abroad? Key health insurer terms you MUST know

If you're planning to move abroad, or are already living abroad in 2022, organising your international health insurance is one of the most complex, yet important, tasks on your to-do list. Which is not to mention the added urgency that even the tail-end of a pandemic creates.

Heading abroad? Key health insurer terms you MUST know

Adding to the complexity is the medical insurance legalese you’ll come across when trying to research your best options. Fortunately, many international insurance use similar terms that have the same meaning. Together with provider Cigna Global, we demystify some of the key terms you’ll encounter when choosing a policy. 

Important dates

Generally, insurance policies will be very specific about dates, for a variety of reasons that deal with processes and legal compliance. Coverage may not be included as soon as you sign up, so it’s important to know exactly when your coverage starts and ends, and the duration of time before your policy needs to be renewed. 

Annual renewal date  – This is the yearly anniversary of the policy’s start date.

End date – This is the date that a policy ends, as listed in the certificate of insurance

Initial start date – This is the first day that the treatment of a beneficiary is covered. 

Period of cover – This is usually a period of 12 months, during which a beneficiary is covered, including the start and the end date. 

Start date – The date on which a beneficiary’s coverage starts, as indicated on the certificate of insurance. 

Cigna Global demystifies international health insurance. Discover how to protect you and your family abroad

People and places

Insurance providers are also, obviously, very particular about exactly who is covered by their policies, and where they come from. This is for a variety of reasons regarding international agreements and local laws. On your end, however, it’s important to know what they’re talking about when they ask you who is to be covered, and where. 

Beneficiary – A beneficiary, or beneficiaries, is anybody named in your policy, or certificate of insurance, as being covered. This will usually be your spouse or family members and can include newborns. 

Country of habitual residence – This is the country that a beneficiary resides in, as listed in their application. For example. if you’re an American working abroad in Germany with a residence permit, your country of habitual residence would be Germany. 

Country of nationality – This is the country that a beneficiary is a citizen or permanent resident of, as listed in their application. Essentially, the country or countries that you have a passport(s) for. 

Selected area of coverage – This is the area in which treatment is covered. 

Explore international health insurance options that ensure comprehensive coverage for you and your family


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Medical terms 

Medical terms constitute the area of most precise language within policy documents. It’s very important that you understand exactly which treatments are covered, as well as those that the provider may opt not to cover, such as in the case of certain pre-existing conditions. 

Congenital condition –  A congenital condition is any deformity, injury or illness that is present at the time of birth, such as cystic fibrosis or clubfoot. 

Evidence-based treatment – These are treatments that have been approved by specific statutory bodies or standards – in the case of Cigna Global, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence and the International Clinical Guidelines.

Inpatient – An inpatient is a beneficiary admitted to a hospital overnight or longer for treatment – for example, for heart surgery or a similar intensive surgical treatment. 

Medically-necessary – These are those treatments and services that are recognised by the International Clinical Guidelines to be necessary for diagnosing and treating an illness or disease, as standard and orthodox procedure. That is to say, these are treatments and services that are not experimental or untested, or purely cosmetic in nature. 

Outpatient – An outpatient is a beneficiary who attends a hospital or clinic for treatment, for less than a day. Ingrown toenail procedure? That’s an outpatient treatment, and the beneficiary is classified as an outpatient. 

Pre-existing condition – A pre-existing condition is an injury or disease, under treatment or otherwise, that was already present before the start date of a beneficiary’s policy. These can include conditions such as high blood pressure, or asthma that were not present at birth, but developed over time. 

Other important terms

Some terms are very particular to insurance provider documentation, and you may not see them used in any other context. However, they are usually simply ‘legalese’ for rather simple and straightforward concepts, events or objects. 

Certificate of insurance – A document that lists all the important information about the policy, including beneficiaries, dates of validity and treatments or procedures are covered. 

Qualifying life event – These are those events that change the number of beneficiaries covered by a policy, and include births, deaths, adoptions, weddings and civil unions.

Special category data – This is specific data on a beneficiary’s age, race, sex and other affiliations, collected for the purposes of identifying them.

When looking for the right international health coverage, Cigna Global is worth considering for a number of reasons. They offer fully-customisable health coverage, with four levels of statutory cover available, and a broad range of premium contribution options. Cigna Global also offers a direct billing network with more than a million doctors, hospitals and clinics worldwide, meaning that you will easily be able to find treatment options that meet your needs. There’s no upper age limit for cover, and you’ll also enjoy an additional 180 days coverage, while you’re still in your home country, making it easy to transition at either end of your international stay. Finally, full cancer care is offered, including experimental treatments and procedures. 

At a time when we’re all starting to enjoy increased mobility, and working abroad becomes more and more common after the pandemic, it’s crucial that you are covered for any eventuality. Cigna Global is the natural choice for those looking for comprehensive coverage, no matter where their work takes them. 

Learn more about Cigna Global’s broad range of coverage options today, and ensure that your international stay is fully covered against illness or jnjury 

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EUROPEAN UNION

How Europe plans to ease long-term residence rules for non-EU nationals

Non-EU citizens living in the European Union are eligible for a special residence status that allows them to move to another country in the bloc. Getting the permit is not simple but may get easier, explains Claudia Delpero.

How Europe plans to ease long-term residence rules for non-EU nationals

The European Commission proposed this week to simplify residence rules for non-EU nationals who live on a long-term basis in the European Union.

The intention is to ease procedures in three areas: acquiring EU long-term residence status, moving to other EU countries and improving the rights of family members. 

But the new measures will have to be approved by the European Parliament and the EU Council, which is made of national ministers. Will EU governments support them?

What is EU long-term residence?

Non-EU citizens who live in EU countries on a long-term basis are eligible for long-term residence status, nationally and at the EU level. 

This EU status can be acquired if the person has lived ‘legally’ in an EU country for at least five years, has not been away for more than 6 consecutive months and 10 months over the entire period, and can prove to have “stable and regular economic resources” and health insurance. Applicants can also be required to meet “integration conditions”, such as passing a test on the national language or culture knowledge. 

The EU long-term residence permit is valid for at least five years and is automatically renewable. But the status can be lost if the holder leaves the EU for more than one year (the EU Court of Justice recently clarified that being physically in the EU for a few days in a 12-month period is enough to maintain the status).

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: How many non-EU citizens live in European Union countries?

Long-term residence status grants equal treatment to EU nationals in areas such as employment and self-employment or education. In addition, EU long-term residence grants the possibility to move to other EU countries under certain conditions. 

What does the European Commission want to change?

The European Commission has proposed to make it easier to acquire EU long-term residence status and to strengthen the rights associated with it. 

Under new measures, non-EU citizens should be able to cumulate residence periods in different EU countries to reach the 5-year requirement, instead of resetting the clock at each move. 

This, however, will not apply to individuals who used a ‘residence by investment’ scheme to gain rights in the EU, as the Commission wants to “limit the attractiveness” of these routes and not all EU states offer such schemes. 

All periods of legal residence should be fully counted towards the 5 years, including those spent as students, beneficiaries of temporary protection or on temporary grounds. Stays under a short-term visa do not count.

Children who are born or adopted in the EU country having issued the EU long-term residence permit to their parents should acquire EU long-term resident status in that country automatically, without residence requirement, the Commission added.

READ ALSO: Why it may get easier for non-EU citizens to move to another European Union country

EU countries should also avoid imposing a minimum income level for the resources condition but consider the applicant’s individual circumstances, the Commission suggests.

Integration tests should not be too burdensome or expensive, nor should they be requested for long-term residents’ family reunifications. 

The Commission also proposed to extend from 12 to 24 months the possibility to leave the EU without losing status, with facilitated procedures (no integration test) for the re-acquisition of status after longer absences.

A person who has already acquired EU long-term residence status in one EU country should only need three years to acquire the same status in another EU member state. But the second country could decide whether to wait the completion of the five years before granting social benefits. 

The proposal also clarifies that EU long-term residents should have the same right as EU nationals with regard to the acquisition of private housing and the export of pensions, when moving to a third country. 

Why make these changes?

Although EU long-term residence exists since 2006, few people have benefited. “The long-term residents directive is under-used by the member states and does not provide for an effective right to mobility within the EU,” the Commission says. 

Around 3.1 million third-country nationals held long-term residence permits for the EU in 2017, compared to 7.1 million holding a national one. “we would like to make the EU long-term residence permit more attractive,” said European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson.

The problems are the conditions to acquire the status, too difficult to meet, the barriers faced when moving in the EU, the lack of consistency in the rights of long-term residents and their family members and the lack of information about the scheme.

Most EU member states continue to issue “almost exclusively” national permits unless the applicant explicitly asks for the EU one, an evaluation of the directive has shown.

READ ALSO: Pensions in the EU: What you need to know if you’re moving country

This proposal is part of a package to “improve the EU’s overall attractiveness to foreign talent”, address skill shortages and facilitate integration in the EU labour market of people fleeing Ukraine. 

On 1 January 2021, 23.7 million non-EU nationals were residing in the EU, representing 5.3% of the total population. Between 2.25 to 3 million non-EU citizens move to the EU every year. More than 5 million people have left Ukraine for neighbouring states since the beginning of the war in February. 

Will these measures also apply to British citizens?

These measures also apply to British citizens, whether they moved to an EU country before or after Brexit. 

The European Commission has recently clarified that Britons living in the EU under the Withdrawal Agreement can apply for a long-term residence too.

As Britons covered by the Withdrawal Agreement have their residence rights secured only in the country where they lived before Brexit, the British in Europe coalition recommended those who need mobility rights to seek EU long-term residence status. 

These provisions do not apply in Denmark and Ireland, which opted out of the directive.

What happens next?

The Commission proposals will have to be discussed and agreed upon by the European Parliament and Council. This is made of national ministers, who decide by qualified majority. During the process, the proposals can be amended or even scrapped. 

In 2021, the European Parliament voted through a resolution saying that third-country nationals who are long-term residents in the EU should have the right to reside permanently in other EU countries, like EU citizens. The Parliament also called for the reduction of the residency requirement to acquire EU long-term residence from five to three years.

READ ALSO: COMPARE: Which EU countries grant citizenship to the most people?

EU governments will be harder to convince. However, presenting the package, Commission Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, said proposals are likely to be supported because “they fit in a broader framework”, which represents the “construction” of the “EU migration policy”. 

National governments are also likely to agree because large and small employers face skill shortages, “especially in areas that are key to our competitiveness, like agri-food, digital, tourism, healthcare… we need people,” Schinas said.

The article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK.

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