Wednesday 15th September 2010

Expatriate insurance is not always top of everyone’s list when it comes to planning a move overseas. During the initial stages of a move abroad many expats focus their attention on the exciting elements of moving overseas, such as where they will live, what local entertainment is on offer and the sites and sounds that they will encounter. Usually insurance is something that is an afterthought, people are aware of its importance but it features way down the list of things to do and is quite often only really addressed once a move is complete. We cannot stress the importance of having adequate insurance in place enough, and for this reason we are providing a free two-part special report detailing the insurance types you may need as an expat living abroad. We cover all major type of insurance and reveal why they are important for protecting the wellbeing of your family and your possessions. Now that we’ve done a lot of the hard work for you there really is no excuse for putting off the inevitable and finding yourself in an expatriate insurance mess!

In the first part of this two part series we take a look at two areas of expatriate insurance; international health insurance and expat life insurance.

International Heath insurance

International health insurance should be at the top of anyone’s list of insurance ‘must haves’. Although public health and medical facilities are generally improving throughout the world, there remains a need to ensure that you have access to first class medical care and attention. Many expats complain that they find accessing appropriate levels of health insurance cover to be a major difficulty, with the cost of adequate provisions being extremely high and/or the process for utilizing the services confusing.

First things first. Before moving overseas you should check what type of international health insurance, if any, you would need. This will vary according to the following factors:

  • Does the nation you are relocating to have a free national health system and, if they do, will it be adequate to meet your needs?
  • Is there any type of reciprocal agreement in place between your home country and your host country with regards to health care? If so, will you be eligible for it? Will it meet your needs?
  • Will your employer provide cover? If so, will it cover your whole family and/or anyone relocating with you? Will it cover all your needs or will you need additional coverage?

The majority of expatriates will find that they need some type of international health insurance as part of their expatriate insurance provisions, be it minor cover for certain health conditions or full blown comprehensive cover for all eventualities.

Full and comprehensive research is the only means by which you can ensure that you have adequate international health insurance. If you are locating to one of our destination cities then do consult our relocation guide for that country. Each guide contains full details of the medical provisions, both free and charged, that are on offer, together with details of the types of international health insurance that are available and what coverage you will need. Because each guide is written by an expat who has relocated to that city themselves, they have first hand experience that can help to make your life significantly simpler. We also have a free medical insurance checklist that you can use to aid your research process.

Alternatively, seek the services of an independent expat financial advisor. They can research the international medical insurance requirements on your behalf and provide advise on medical cover that can meet your needs.

Expat Life insurance

Expat Life insurance is another insurance group that expatriates need to consider. However, deciding on an appropriate level of life insurance can be very difficult. You should start by considering what you would like your insurance policy to cover.

Expat life insurance: what should it cover?

Consider whether or not you would like to cover the following:

  • Funeral arrangements, including repatriation of your remains
  • An outstanding mortgage, home owner’s loan or other debt
  • Your current income
  • The education of your children
  • Care of your children and other dependents
  • The cost of returning your family, pets and possessions back to your home country

The level of coverage you need will help you to determine how much life insurance you need. While it may be tempting to opt for the lowest priced policy you should be realistic about what you or your partner would need in the event that the worst were to happen.

Expat life insurance: who would you like to insure?

There are many different types of expat life insurance policies available that suit all types of lifestyles and family circumstances. You can arrange a life insurance policy for an individual or for a couple (a joint insurance policy). The most common types of joint life policy provide coverage for the death of either party, with the premium being paid to the surviving partner.

Expat life insurance: length of coverage

A further major consideration should be the length of the coverage you require. Your situation will change over time and you need to ensure that the cost and coverage of your expat life insurance will cover these changes. Major considerations should include the following:

  • If you have a mortgage, when will it be paid off? How long will your life insurance policy need to cover this cost?
  • When will your children attend school? Once they have completed their education you will require a lower level of life insurance.
  • When will you retire? Will you require less coverage during your retirement years?

These, and other considerations, are vital if you are to ensure that you have adequate coverage without overpaying.

Expat life insurance: Choosing an insurer

Deciding on the level of insurance is only half the work, you then need to choose an insurer. Look for the following:

  • An insurer that requests full medical information and health screening. Generally speaking the more medical information you provide, the more targeted the cover. If an insurer asks very few questions about your medical condition then the chances are they are providing a premium that is potentially higher than that which you need.
  • An insurer that is financially stable. Research the insurer and don’t even consider any that or unfamiliar or small scale. The last thing you want is an insurer that is unable to pay out the premium in the event that the worse happens to either you or your partner.
  • Look for a policy that can be cancelled without penalty.
  • Research the renewal options available and whether or not your premiums will be higher on renewal.

When it comes to something as serious as life insurance you should always consult an independent financial advisor, as they are best placed to provide useful and reliable advice on what cover you need.

Next week we’ll be publishing part two of our guide to expatriate insurance and will be covering travel insurance, legal insurance and household insurance. In the meantime, for more free information, please see our free guide to expat insurance in our expat manual.

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