Why do I need expat health insurance?
Even the smallest accident or minor illness can be expensive if you don't have adequate health insurance. Make sure that you and your family are fully covered before you move abroad and you have peace of mind knowing you will receive the best medical care, no matter where in the world you are and no matter how serious the illness or injury is. Expat health insurance is designed specifically for people moving from their country of origin to another location on a permanent basis. It makes sure that the transition from one system to another is smooth, and that you are not denied medical cover in your new home.
Some countries also insist that you have adequate health insurance in place before you take up residency. If it's a legal requirement and you don't have insurance in place before you arrive, you may be denied access to the country or even incur a hefty fine.
Expat health insurance is the same as a normal health insurance policy, but rather than just covering you in your country of origin, it ensures that you are covered for treatment in your new home from the moment you arrive.
Other reasons for taking out international health insurance
Apart from the legal aspect of entering your new country, there are a variety of reasons as to why you might need international health insurance including:
• The quality of your local country's healthcare system is poor or does not meet your needs
• Good quality local healthcare may be very expensive, even for prescription drugs or minor treatment
• The local healthcare system is confusing
• Language barriers make using the local system difficult
Why shouldn't I just wait until I arrive in my new home?
You could wait until you have reached your new country of residence (if they'll allow you in without medical insurance), but that could mean a delay of days or even weeks until you get coverage. During that time you would have no health cover to pay for any medical bills, which could become very expensive, very quickly. Even prescription drugs such as asthma inhalers and blood pressure tablets can be costly and cut into your family's finances at a time when you may need to spend more than usual. So not having medical insurance could easily add extra problems to what is what already a stressful period in your life.
Where do I find guidelines on requirements?
The Internet has a wealth of information on official government and state sites, which will tell you what insurance you need. While you are still in the UK you can check out the NHS website, which provides guides on healthcare in EU and non-EU countries. If you're moving to the USA, the State Department's website has a medical insurance and country guide that will give you with all the information you need. Other countries such as Australia and Canada also have their own personalised guides to health insurance that will help you decide which type of international health insurance is suitable for you.
What should I look for when buying Expat health insurance?
While we would all like to think that an accident will never happen or we'll stay in good health, you never know what might be around the corner. To ensure that you are covered for every eventuality, both short and long-term, you might want to choose a range of cover that includes:
• Chronic conditions such as cancer
• Maternity including pre and post-natal treatment
• Doctors/specialist visits and prescription drugs
• Emergency evacuation back to your country of origin
• Dental & optometrist treatment
You should also check if the plan offers "Paid in full" or whether it just covers a proportion of the costs for certain treatments, particularly for long-term illnesses such as heart disease. It is also sensible at this stage to decide what deductibles (excess) you are willing to pay. As with other types of insurance, the higher the deductible you are prepared to cover, the lower the overall premium.
You also need to what the maximum limit on the policy is so that you are certain that you are covered for everything, including emergency surgery or long-term medical treatment. The UK's Foreign Office recommends that you should take out a policy that provides at least £2m / €2.5m / $3m in benefit limits.
It all sounds very complicated...
In fact, taking out expat health insurance is as easy as arranging any other form of insurance cover. The first thing to do is a little research into the requirements of your country of destination to find out what type of cover you will need. Then talk to insurance companies that specialize in expat health insurance, telling them where you're moving to and what kind of cover you would like. They will use their experience and expertise to find a policy that matches both your needs and the legal requirements of the country you are moving to. There are policies designed for international travellers who just want temporary cover, and for those who are planning to move to a new country on a permanent basis. Insurance providers such as CIGNA Global offer comprehensive international health insurance packages that are tailor-made to help people who are planning to make that big move abroad.
Once you've sorted out your international health insurance, you can then arrive in your new home, safe in the knowledge that you and your family will get the medical treatment you need, when you need it. Medical insurance also means that you won't have to pay a fortune for that treatment either.