Visitor medical insurance is required for travel in the United States and Canada and when applying for a J1 or J2 visa. These requirements are put in place to ensure that those visiting or living in United States and Canada for short periods of time have the ability to cover any and all medical expenses that may occur. While Canada and the United States have different options for medical coverage, the United States being private and Canada being a nationally funded program, visitors to the either country are not covered.

Visitor medical insurance can be a bit complicated because of the various insurance specific terms that are used in the policies. However, these terms are universal in their definition and with a basic understanding of what the terms mean you can effectively evaluate each policy. It is always recommended that you consider several different policies before deciding which one is best for you. Policies will vary in the coverage, maximum benefits, deductibles and the specifics of the coverage.

Some of the first terms you will likely see when looking at different visitor medical insurance policies are the words comprehensive and fixed. A comprehensive plan is designed to provide the maximum coverage limit amount without limits based on the specific type of medical service provided. In other words the maximum amount the insurance company will pay is based on the amount of the policy, not the category of medical expense. A fixed plan, on the other hand, has specific limits on each category of benefit. These fixed amounts do not vary based on the actual medical bills for the service. For example, if the fixed plan has a hospital stay benefit of $800 per day but the actual costs to the patient are $1000 per day, the patient would be required to pay the initial deductable plus the additional charge amount over the plan limit of $800. Since these plans have category limits they are often less costly than the comprehensive plan since the insurance company has defined obligations to cover the costs.

The deductible is very important on visitor medical insurance plans. The deductible is the amount that the patient or policy holder will pay before the insurance company begins to pay the medical bill. Deductibles can range from a low rate to a higher amount. Generally the higher the deductible, the lower the cost of the insurance since the patient is assuming more of the cost for care.

Deductibles can be charged per incident, per visit, per policy period or on an annual basis. All are good options depending on your current health, any pre-existing conditions and your financial situation. A per incident and per visit deductible will require you to pay the deductible amount, which is stipulated on your policy, for each respective medical incident or each visit to a medical facility or doctor. Per policy deductibles are a one pay payment once you use the insurance coverage. You are not charged per visit after you have reached the deductible limit. Annual deductibles work the same way but the amount is paid yearly rather than per policy period.

The policy duration is the number of calendar days that the policy is in place. Typically the minimum coverage is five days but some companies provide other options. The insurance duration is usually for 30 days in sequence with the option to buy for up to 12 months or more based on your travel coverage needs.  The policy for visitor medical insurance can start on any day during the month; it is not just available for the first to last day if you are buying for the 30 day maximum.