Some Considerations when Choosing International Health Insurance
The following tips are offered as general advice when it comes to selecting the most appropriate international health insurance in your particular circumstances. Much of it will be familiar to long term expatriates:
- It's obvious, and occasionally impossible, but try and arrange arrange health insurance well in advance of proceeding overseas. Last minute decision making is often costly and stressful.
- Deal with a broker, preferably large rather than small, which has a depth and history of experience in this area and who offers a wide range of plans. No additional costs should attach to using a broker and you are much more likely to find a plan that suits your individual requirements. The area is complex and you should lean upon the advice of a trusted broker.
- Avoid purchasing cover solely on the basis of premiums; a large discrepancy in premiums usually means that there are corresponding differences in coverage. You need to closely examine issues of comparable coverage and the size, the company's claims paying ability and reputation of the low(er) cost insurer. Alternatively, high premiums do not necessarily guarantee more extensive cover or better service.
- If you already have international health cover be very careful about changing insurers. New insurers may not cover the pre-existing conditions which are covered by your present insurer, and some insurers will not provide cover beyond a certain age.
- Be very honest regarding any pre-existing conditions and discuss these with your broker or insurer. Insurers have a very strict attitude to pre-existing medical conditions and there is a risk that you might lose your entire cover and the right to any payments if there is not full and adequate disclosure.
- If you are planning to have children in the near future make sure that your broker is aware of this and carefully check that any health plan covers maternity costs. Many international health plans either do not cover maternity costs at all, or only after a prescribed waiting period on a capped basis. Child birth costs can be very high in certain countries, particularly if there are complications. Correspondingly, some health plans include maternity benefits as part of the base cover, and you may be able to reduce premiums considerably by excluding maternity cover.
- If you are already pregnant most health plans - both individual and corporate - will view this as a “pre-existing condition” and any associated costs will not be covered.
- Medical problems will often occur very suddenly and outside business hours - and expatriates will often be travelling outside their host and base countries. As a result, you should ensure that any insurer has a 24 hour help desk and emergency capability - with English speaking operators. Most insurers will issue you with a wallet card providing your account code and international call numbers - which you and your family should carry with you everywhere.
- Travel insurance is not a real alternative to health insurance. Coverage is generally only provided for emergency conditions and not for access to general practitioners or ongoing medical care within the host country.