The chances are that you are moving around the world from one assignment to another, so getting an international medical insurance plan that can travel with you will save you from having to switch insurers with each new country that you visit.
This will give you the luxury of building up a relationship with one insurer who knows you and your medical history and if you have a gap between assignments then an international medical insurance policy could be the right option for you.
For many expats and global contractors, one of the main reasons for buying international medical insurance is down to the quality of medical care offered in the country to which they will be moving. Local medical facilities may be difficult to access as a foreigner or simply substandard and something that you would not wish to rely on.
With private medical insurance you have the advantage of being able to access to the best hospitals and doctors available in the country where you will be living and working, or if you prefer, to source treatment outside of your host country. In short, you’re paying the bill so you decide what happens.
Importantly, international medical insurance premiums are usually calculated on your age, level of cover and where you will be living and working rather than on the claims that you may have made in the past or in the future.
Of course for many people, it is also easier to be able to communicate with an international insurance company because they offer support in English or another familiar language. Something when you are unwell and stressed will be a comfort.
Choosing an International Health Insurance Provider
So having decided that you need international medical insurance, what is the right option for you and how should you go about choosing an insurer?
First of all, the world of international medical insurance can be a minefield if you’re not familiar with the wide range of products available from a whole host of insurers.
Add to this the complication of understanding the local regulations introduced by many countries which can affect what cover you need, means that it’s important to get good, clear, impartial advice.
The internet is of course a great source of information, but you will find it better to speak with a specialist broker or intermediary who will be able to give you clear, independent advise.
Creating your cover
There are of course many different factors to consider when choosing the medical insurance plan that best fits your needs and lifestyle.
You need to consider your area of cover – in other words, which list of countries you might want to include as being places to receive treatment.
International health insurers tend to divide the world into distinct areas – usually made up of two or three regions (Europe, Worldwide excluding the USA and Worldwide), although there can be up to eight regions.
Once you have decided on which area works best, you will probably have various premium levels to choose from based on how comprehensive you wish you cover benefits to be.
Naturally this all comes at a price, so you need to ask yourself whether you’d rather have lower premiums or more comprehensive benefits.
There will often be the option to incorporate a deductible into your policy (anywhere between $50 and $5,000 depending upon the plan you choose) in exchange for a lower premium. It’s something we’re all used to with motor and home insurance, so its something to consider when it comes to medial insurance.
Aside from the core benefits that you will be provided by your insurer and which normally incorporates hospital accommodation and treatment, specialist fees and other treatment received as part of a stay in hospital, you will also be able to buy-in additional benefits.
Advantages of International Health Insurance
Perhaps most importantly, international medical insurance is not just about paying the bills. Insurers have the experience of dealing with medical issues across the world and can provide expert advice and support. They have 24/7 help centers employing multilingual staff, including medical professionals whom you can speak with if you have questions about the care you are receiving in your host country.
They understand what it’s like to be living and working in an unfamiliar country and have the local contacts on the ground to ensure that when you need help, there is anyways someone on hand to help smooth the process of getting the right treatment, at the right time, at the right place.
Don’t forget to read the fine print
But of course it goes without saying that as with all insurance plans, it is important to read the fine print of your policy. Make sure you know in advance what will and won’t be covered, so here are a few questions to keep in mind:
- Will you need to pay upfront for medical care and then be reimbursed afterwards, or will your health insurance company pay the medical institution directly?
- Is the policy you are buying approved by the authorities of country you will be visiting if you need get a visa?
- Will an existing medical condition be covered?
- Aside from the insurance part of your policy, what ‘extras’ does your insurance company offer?
- What isn’t covered?
Article written by Andrew Apps, Head of Global Healthcare, at Bellwood Prestbury.