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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EXPLAINED: How Germany wants to contain the monkeypox virus

Health experts recently raised the alarm about cases of a rare virus in Europe. Here's what Germany is doing to limit the spread of monkeypox and what to do if you suspect you have it.

EXPLAINED: How Germany wants to contain the monkeypox virus

What is monkeypox and how is it transmitted?

Monkeypox is a viral zoonosis (a virus transmitted to humans from animals) that causes small lesions on the skin, headaches and fever. It’s similar to chickenpox or smallpox, though the illness tends to be less severe than smallpox.

The symptoms of the disease caused by the virus are generally mild and clear up in 2-4 weeks without treatment, but can occasionally result in more serious illness if the patient has a weaker immune system.

The disease is called monkeypox because it was first discovered in macaques – a type of monkey – in a Denmark laboratory in 1958. Around 12 years later, the first human cases were discovered in the Democratic Republic of Congo in West Africa.

Scientists believe that, rather than monkeys, the disease could have been transmitted to humans through close contact with rats or other rodents in sub-Saharan Africa. 

Since then, the disease has spread to other countries but has generally been contained within the West African region. In the past few weeks, however, cases have emerged in Europe and North America.  

Why are people concerned about it in Germany?

After the first case was discovered in the UK at the beginning of May, experts assumed that the virus was likely to be present in other European countries.

This prognosis turned out to be accurate, and Germany reported its first case of the virus on May 20th. Since then, six cases in total have been discovered in the Bundesrepublik, including one in Munich and three in Berlin. A further patient with the virus is currently being treated in isolation at Freiburg University Hospital, while authorities have reported evidence of infections in Saxony-Anhalt as well. 

The Health Ministry and Robert Koch Institute (RKI) have said they expect more cases to emerge as time goes on.

“We are in the early stages of this outbreak,” Lothar Wieler, the head of the RKI, said on Tuesday. 

Much is still unknown, he said, but the situation is being closely monitored. Samples from many more people are being analysed, and authorities are also looking for contacts of people with a proven infection. 


Is this another Covid pandemic? 

Thankfully, no. So far, around 250 cases of the virus have been reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 16 countries worldwide. Though this figure is worrying, the WHO has said that the risk to the general public is still very low.

Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of German Doctors’ Day in Bremen, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) emphasised that the developments should be taken seriously. But, he said, the difference between Covid-19 and monkeypox are vast.

“What we are currently experiencing with monkeypox is not the beginning of a new pandemic,” he told DPA. Since the pathogen is well known to health experts, countries are well-equipped to bring the situation under control with good contact tracing and caution, he added.

Lothar Wieler and Karl Lauterbach

Lothar Wieler, the head of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) and Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) speak at a press conference about monkeypox on Tuesday, May 24th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sina Schuldt

One major difference between Covid-19 and monkeypox is the way it is transmitted.

According to experts, monkeypox is much harder to transmit to another person than the coronavirus. While Covid-19 can be passed on through airborne droplets and particles, monkeypox infections generally occur after sustained and close physical contact with an infected person or animal.

Of the recent cases that have become known to the RKI, most had been infected at large events “that were connected with sexual activities”, Wieler explained.

What should people do if they suspect they have monkeypox?

On Tuesday, the RKI issued recommendations that anyone who suspects they have monkeypox should self-isolate for 21 days.

If people notice small, red lesions appearing on their skin, they should contact their doctor or local health authority, who may require tests to be carried out and will likely ask for information about contacts. 

The contacts of infected people should also isolate for 21 days, the RKI said.

Generally, monkeypox is most identifiable through changes to the skin. The illness starts with red lesions, which pass through different stages and eventually crust over after the incubation phase of the virus is complete. 

Other symptoms of the disease include headaches, fever, chills, muscular aches and exhaustion. 

Experts also say that prevention is better than cure. Richard Pebody, head of the pathogens team at WHO Europe, recommends regular hand-washing, good hygiene and safe sex as practices to prevent the spread of the illness. 

What is the Health Ministry doing to contain the virus? 

Germany wants to control the spread of monkeypox by tracing contacts and quickly isolating infected people. 

Speaking in Bremen on Tuesday, Lauterbach said that the situation required a “tough response” and that the spread of disease could be contained if outbreaks were caught early. 

Now that the RKI has formulated isolation guidelines for both contacts and infected people, these will are set to be passed onto the 16 German states in the form of a recommendation.

The states will then be responsible for implementing and enforcing the rules.

Woman self-isolates with monkeypox

A woman self-isolates at home. The RKI recommends 21 says of isolation for people with monkeypox. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

In addition, health experts are currently investigating whether existing vaccines should be rolled out to certain segments of the population.

This is a view supported by Klaus Rheinhardt, the head of the German Medical Association. Rheinhardt said on Tuesday that he thought vulnerable groups should be inoculated with the smallpox vaccine, which is believed to be highly effective against monkeypox.

This could include people with illnesses that weaken their immune system. Experts believe that the majority of people who died after a monkeypox infection in West Africa were HIV patients. 

Germany currently has around 100 million doses of smallpox vaccines in storage. Smallpox vaccination was compulsory in West Germany until 1975 and in East Germany until 1982, but the vaccination campaigns were phased out shortly before the eradication of the virus. 

READ ALSO: Monkeypox: German health expert calls for isolation measures