When seeking a provider for expat health insurance there are a number of things that you need to take into consideration. Here’s an overview of some of the factors that should be addressed when selecting a provider:
Selecting a Health Insurance Provider
While it may be tempting to sign up for the cheapest health insurance coverage available, this is not always the best approach to take. It is prudent to do some research into the reputation of the insurer in order to identify any potential issues that may occur. You need to have faith that your insurer will provide you with good service and will handle any claims you make in an efficient and timely manner. If the insurer has a history of refusing to pay valid claims then you should avoid them at all costs. Visit expatriate forums and ask other expats which insurers they use and what their opinions are of them. This should help you to identify any companies that you should stay away from. You should also look into any potential insurer’s financial stability as you need assurance that they are financially secure and will be able to settle any claims you make. Consider using a broker to help you with this as such organizations will usually have up to date information about all insurers.
One of the best sources for global health insurance is Expat Financial, which has extensive experience in global medical plans for expatriates, global nomads and international citizens. Here is a link to where you can get a quote and even apply online for one of the insurance companies that they represent.
A key consideration when you are applying for expat health insurance should concern the type of lifestyle you lead. If you participate in sporting activities or any potentially dangerous hobbies on a regular basis then you need to ensure that the policy will cover you for any accidents that may occur while you are partaking in such activities. Ask the insurer or broker to provide full details of what sports are covered and the extent to which you will be covered. Make sure you have the right plan to suit your lifestyle.
Methods by which claims will be handled and paid
The majority of international healthcare insurers currently have a direct billing process in place which entails that any hospital or medical fees will be settled directly between the hospital and the insurer, without the insured needing to pay and then claim the money back later. If you do not have significant savings or access to large amounts of money then you will certainly need such an insurer as hospital bills can run into tens of thousands.
Customer service and assistance
Another issue for consideration should concern the customer support mechanisms that your insurer offers. Ideally, you need a ex-pat health insurance provider that offers round the clock support, 365 days a year. Emergencies can occur at any time and you need to be confident that you can quickly and easily speak to someone who can advise you on what action to take. Such services may be needed in the event that you need emergency medical care, as the hospital will often contact the insurer in order to verify your status and the fact that the payment is guaranteed.
The current status of your health
Many expat health insurance providers exclude coverage for any health conditions that are already in existence. If you have any ongoing health problems then you may need additional coverage for these. Many insurers will not provide cover for any chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart problems. Ensure you are open with the insurer and disclose all information when seeking a quotation as you need to be 100% sure that your needs can be met and will be covered. Note that some medical conditions that you may have a history of simply can’t be covered by an international health insurance provider if you are applying as an individual. Some expatriate group insurance plans that are sponsored by an employer can cover pre-existing conditions as the risk is spread out.
If you are pregnant or are planning to have a baby while living abroad as an expatriate you should look into the maternity policies of your intended insurer. While many companies do cover pregnancy this may not always include coverage for any complications or, if it does, it will require additional premiums. They may also require a previous history of insurance, usually 10 -24 months on that level of cover assuming it has maternity coverage already. Note that pregnancy-related claims can be extremely expensive, so make sure you have maternity coverage if you plan to become pregnant.
Ideally, expatriates should use health insurance that allows them, or their doctor, the freedom to decide which hospital or clinic they will be treated in. This may be important if you encounter any conditions that you need coverage for at specialized institutions. You want to be assured that you can access the best care for your needs. Some global nomads prefer to have a policy that only covers them for hospital-related treatment, especially if local out-patient care is inexpensive.