Expat's Manual

When it comes to medical insurance, much of what you will need to do depends on the health care and social services offered by the country in which you will be living and the policy that your company provides in your relocation package. The Expat Info Desk international relocation guides for specific countries will provide you with detailed, and vital, information about those government and private systems that will enable you to make smart, cost-efficient choices regarding your coverage in your new home.

Overall, health care costs in America are significantly higher than in most other places around the world – and you will most likely end up saving money on coverage by moving overseas, depending on your specific situation.

If you’re moving to a country with universal health care, where you will remain most of the time, you may find you:

  • (a) don’t need your old American policy at all, and
  • (b) don’t need new medical insurance for your new place of residence, except for perhaps a supplemental policy to assure you a certain level of care.

If you currently have an American policy that covers family members that are going to remain in the USA, and you want that coverage to continue, you need to contact your provider to see if you can arrange to remove yourself from the policy and continue their coverage. That may be more of an expense than it’s worth and, if you will be traveling back and forth a great deal, you may find it’s best just to continue your policy as is.

If, however, you’re moving to a country with universal health care and you’re bringing the family members in question with you, then there is probably no reason to continue American health care coverage. When you return to visit, you can buy travel insurance, which will certainly be a great deal cheaper than maintaining a comprehensive health policy.

You will need to research the country to which you’re relocating in order to accurately assess what you require to ensure proper medical coverage there – every country has different peculiarities and, even if they have universal health care, you still may feel the need to purchase additional coverage on top of that. Research how well your new country’s system does or doesn’t work and talk to medical professionals in that country to get a sense of what your best choice might be. See our section on expat health insurance for more information.

A third option is to buy international health insurance. If you’re going to be traveling frequently between different countries, in addition to relocating to a new country, this could be the right option for you, depending on your company’s existing provided medical insurance coverage. Be aware that adding the U.S. onto an international medical insurance policy boosts the cost substantially – if you’re already covered in the U.S., or if you will be returning infrequently for short visits, you can realize significant savings by not including America in an international policy.

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