How to choose the right international health insurance plan

How to choose the right international health insurance plan

Expats working or living abroad almost always need some kind of private health coverage. Many companies offer plans tailored to expats’ needs, but some may opt for a local plan. Either way, there are crucial considerations to make when making such an important decision.

Local vs international

The first choice to make is whether to opt for international health insurance or local. First of all, consider the characteristics of healthcare in your destination country. Is healthcare provided for free? Is there a national health service? Is insurance required? If you plan to stay in a country that provides coverage through a national health system, insurance may not even be necessary. If you do need insurance, a local one will cover you in only the country you reside in. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself, what would you do if you got really sick. Are you comfortable with the care in your destination country for a serious accident or disease? If the answer to that is no, you probably should consider international health insurance.

Many expats tend to move around a lot, and an international coverage will generally protect you wherever you are in the world. A global healthcare plan will provide more consistent coverage while you travel among different countries. If you don’t speak the local language, international health insurance can often provide access to a network of English-speaking doctors.

Estimate your healthcare needs

Make an estimate of your health care costs and look for a plan that is right for you. Avoid paying exorbitant prices for coverage you don’t need or, on the other hand, ending up paying too much out-of-pocket when your plan doesn’t cover enough. Insurance companies will tell you how much you will pay out-of-pocket under their plan, so take that into consideration.

But remember insurance is more than about protecting you for your expected costs. It is about covering you for what you cannot afford and do not necessarily foresee. We don't usually picture ourselves sick but that is when we need heatlh cover the most.

If you have dependents that are moving with you, you can generally get coverage for everyone, so you can choose an insurance plan that is tailored to your and your family’s needs.

Identify the must-haves

Always consider the essential elements that your insurance plan must include. If you want to start a family, make sure maternity coverage is included. If you take regular medication for any kind of condition, check that they’re included in the policy. A good plan would ideally include preventive services and tests for the entire family, as well as prescriptions, specialists, surgery and hospital care.

Remember that family history is important. If there is a history of heart disease in your family, make sure related services, such as preventive screenings and medications, are covered.

What is included?

If you have a pre-existing condition, finding coverage might be difficult. Insurers tend to decline to cover people who have one. Or they may exclude the condition. However, there are plans that provide cover for people with pre-existing conditions, if approved by the insurer. Sometimes, insurers will charge an extra loading to cover the extra expenses expected. Generally speaking it is always better to have certainty for your cover. Exclusions on pre-existing conditions can provide a lot of room for interpretation when a serious claim comes in later. Not having an exclusion for a pre-existing condition, even if you are paying for a loading, can save you aggravation and, most importantly, money. It can even cost you your health.

Make sure your plan provides coverage in the areas where you will be residing and travelings. Some insurance plan exclude certain parts of the world, such as the United States, because of their high healthcare costs.

For expats, it is very important that the plan includes emergency evacuation and repatriation services, as they can be very expensive, especially in some parts of the world which may be less connected to transportation networks.

Research all the options

There are many factors to consider when moving abroad. The ones listed above cover the essential considerations to make when choosing a health insurance plan. It is essential to thoroughly research the available policies. You can visit the insurance companies’ online websites to find out their available plans and their costs.