What Is Expat Insurance?

Written by
Amber Hobert
Published on
July 9, 2024
Table of Contents

Insurance For Expatriates

You've been thinking about working abroad or traveling for an extended period. However, you are worried about how to cover your medical expenses, evacuation, and repatriation in your new country.

Different countries have different health systems. The most effective way to ensure that all medical concerns are catered for is by having expat health insurance, also known as international private medical insurance.

What is expat insurance? In this post, we'll clarify the most important aspects of expat insurance to help you make an informed decision before choosing an insurance policy. Let's get started.

What Is Expat Health Insurance?

Expat insurance, also referred to as international health insurance, is an insurance policy that caters to the medical expenses of people living or traveling in foreign countries. For instance, moving from the United States to Costa Rica, you'll have to get an international health insurance plan.

This is necessitated by the fact that different countries have different healthcare systems. In some cases, a lack of expat life insurance means you will need to seek medical care from private hospitals, which might be expensive. International health insurance plans will cater to significant medical expenses, including:

  • Medical emergencies that require hospitalization
  • Maternity
  • Mental health, and many more.

Expat insurance plans also cover preventive medical care such as doctor visits. Most of the plans are customizable. You can alter the policy benefit limitations, coverage, and levels to meet your needs and budget.

Who Is Eligible For Expat Health Insurance?

Each country has its unique healthcare system. Also, there are different methods to pay for healthcare. The government covers some, and others are paid out of pocket by private individuals.

If you decide to live abroad, you should know the kind of healthcare system a country uses before traveling. Countries that have an out-of-pocket plan probably require expat healthcare insurance.

If you're already abroad, check your corporation's health policy to ascertain if they provide International Private Medical Insurance (IPMI) within their employees' policies for all employees worldwide.

Here is a list of those who should get expatriate health insurance.

  • Expatriates, i.e., living in a nation where you aren't an official resident or citizen.
  • Frequent travelers who regularly move between countries.
  • Remote workers, AKA digital nomads.
  • International business travelers.
  • Workers of NGOs or government agencies located overseas.
  • Retirees

Why Expats Need International Health Insurance

It's a requirement in some countries

While having a health insurance plan is optional, it isn't the case for expats traveling to some countries. Some countries require medical insurance. A good example is Thailand. To be issued a visa, you'll have to prove that you have medical insurance to cover your health.

Insurance covers you in your new country and home country

Another advantage of medical insurance is that it pays all healthcare expenses you might incur while living in another country. The medical costs can be pretty high, particularly when a condition is deemed severe, like a medical emergency or treatment for diseases like cancer.

Expat insurance also covers you in your home country. In some cases, you may want to stay in touch with your home country for medical reasons. In return, you can visit your family doctor, who is aware of your medical history. Also, you should be well versed in health procedures and systems and know which healthcare professionals to see.

Flexible treatment options

Having expat insurance allows one to have flexible treatment options. You can choose your preferred hospital as well as the doctor. If you're not conversant with the national language of your country, you can request a doctor who speaks the same language as you.

Additionally, international health insurance is usually the best option if you're an expat who travels frequently. It is generally covered within the area of coverage. Therefore, you could move from one country to the next at any time, and your insurance will travel with you.

You control your health expenses

As an expat, having control over your finances is essential. Having an expat health insurance cover will help you control your health costs. Without it, you'll be liable for medical expenses out of your pockets.

It's essential to be aware that medical expenses in some countries are highly costly. If you have global health insurance, you do not have to worry about spending out of your pockets. In the event of an emergency, the policy will allow you to access treatments offered by healthcare in the private sector. Additionally, you don't need to worry about costs.

Global health systems are more effective than local coverage

Each country has its own local medical insurance and facilities in place. It is intended to serve local residents and not foreigners. Although some countries provide free healthcare to all, it might not be appropriate for someone who is constantly moving from one country to another.

For instance, certain countries offer free healthcare once you are in their country for a while and require a long waiting time before you can be eligible. It is difficult to enjoy the expat lifestyle if you make your travel plans in accordance with the different health systems. If you reside in a country that has less-developed health systems, a global health insurance plan can be an ideal choice for expats.

The reliability of the healthcare system in your chosen country

You likely already know that healthcare quality can differ dramatically from one country to the other. In some instances, the health standards of your new home could be similar or superior to the standards you're used to. In some other cases, healthcare standards might not be as good as in your country of origin.

Before moving, make an effort to find out about the healthcare system. You should find out whether seeking medical care from private hospitals is better or if you'd instead go through the public health system. Also, be sure to know how emergency medical care works in the country before planning to move.

You can get relevant information by contacting your consulate or embassy. Also, if you know expats living in your desired destination, you can inquire from them.

Important Health Insurance Tips For Expats

Expat health insurance provides scheduled consultations, treatments, and procedures when you travel and work in another country, including treatments for cataracts, hips or ears, or mental health. It's a decision that's part of your lifestyle. If you're thinking about it or are looking to see the way your current policy is performing, here is some essential information you should know:

Excluded matters

When buying an insurance policy, you should be aware of the sum you pay for any or all claims for a year, as it can have a significant effect on expenses. Consider the level you'd like to claim and whether you're seeking an all-encompassing policy or just a 'cover big things' policy.

Choose the best health insurance cover

Should you opt for public or private hospitals? More choice means more money spent. After deciding on a plan, you should check the list of hospitals available and other options. Also, what treatment do you want to be covered? Are there options to improve continuous coverage in the future?

Does the cover include mental health issues and cancer? Think about what you want your expat health insurance plans to cover. Another factor is the consultation limits. Insurance plans have consultation limits. Furthermore, some require prior approval; hence you need to be aware.

Others may be covered part-time, which means you'll have to pay the difference, or you may not be covered in any way. Also, it would be best to opt for full medical underwriting rather than a moratorium. Full medical underwriting requires you to disclose your medical history upon signing up.

On the other hand, a moratorium doesn't require such. However, you'll be required to prove that you haven't had any previous issues with your health if you file a claim within the first two months.

Always consult an expert

Are you unable to locate what you're looking for or are confused about what to go for? If you're unsure or have circumstances that make it difficult, ask for help from an international health insurance provider. They will be able to answer any of your questions regarding insurance coverage, specific insurance company records, regulations, and much more.

Consulting an expert will enlighten you on all the significant health aspects. It doesn't matter if you're making a move on your first attempt or have been an expat in various areas. It's essential to be aware of the significant health aspects when you decide to work and live abroad. Additionally, you may learn of other challenges you need to know about while researching the health system of the place you are considering for your next home.

Characteristics Of The Best IPMI Policy

When you are looking for the best international insurance for health, you should keep three critical questions in mind:

  • Is it affordable?
  • Does the policy cover all the things you want to be covered?
  • Does the policy meet standards of the countries you want to reside in?

By focusing on these three, you'll be able to get a health insurance plan that covers the medical conditions relevant to you and your family. It should guarantee security in the near future while also fitting your budget and lifestyle. The best International Private Medical Insurance (IPMI) policy should provide wide and continuous coverage of medical issues such as:

  • Long-term illness, hereditary ailments, or disabilities you have been treated for before the time you move to another country, e.g., diabetes.
  • Emergencies and accidents, particularly those that require urgent care in the hospital.
  • Diagnostic, treatment, and follow-up-care advice for severe illnesses like cancer.
  • Maternity insurance that covers every aspect of the birth, pregnancy, and post-care for infant children.
  • Dentistry and physiotherapy.
  • Contingency plans such as medical evacuations.

In addition, you should select an insurance service provider that:

  • Is in any nation worldwide through an internationally connected network, internationally recommended medical and clinics as it will give you a complete assurance of your health regardless of where you move to.
  • Has specialized expertise in offering worldwide long-term insurance for health in contrast to short-term alternatives, such as travel insurance plans.
  • Offers various other services beyond the scope of comprehensive health insurance, including emergency medical evacuation insurance and maternity coverage.

Choosing The Best Expat Health Insurance Policy

Choosing your health insurance plan should be a well-thought-out decision. It should not be made in a hurry as it might significantly impact your health and finances. The best insurance plan should meet your needs. It is vital to ensure that your plan can cover the destination you are traveling to or locations and determine the amount of coverage you're likely to require.

While most insurance health plans give you access to private healthcare, each selected plan has rules and limits of access. Be aware of age limitations, how pre-existing medical conditions are dealt with, and what exemptions may apply in the event of claims. Consider the potential risks associated with not having an extensive health insurance plan.

What Type Of Insurance Should You Choose?

If you already have insurance through a private company in your country, chances are it can cover you in your new home. Hence, it's best to consult your insurance provider before moving. You can either opt for:

Family insurance

This protects your entire family and ensures that the best medical treatment and facilities are accessible anytime without worrying about medical expenses. As with individual plans, family insurance is also customizable, allowing you to select your benefits, coverage levels, and areas of coverage.

Short-term health insurance policy (STHI)

This is ideal for those who love moving around and are looking for a policy that suits their needs. This flexible policy offers anything from 1 to 12 months of medical coverage for travel. Depending on the insurance premium, you can get reasonable offers such as:

  • In-patient treatment with a specialist
  • Medical evacuation

The options offered through STHI plans are more extensive and customizable, which makes these international health plans attractive for people who travel to destinations that require specific advantages, like health insurance for water sports or other extreme sports.

Cost Factors Of Expatriate Medical Insurance

The price of health insurance for expatriates can vary in a way that is incredibly wide due to several factors that impact the way premiums are determined. Here are the most significant factors considered when calculating insurance premiums.

  • Age: The cost of healthcare increases with age.
  • Medical background: Health insurance won't cover pre-existing medical conditions. In most cases, you'll need an added cost to cover such.
  • Additional options: Caters to those who require more complex dental treatment.

What you should be aware of when looking for health insurance coverage is that private patient insurance is expensive in certain regions and countries.

What is a pre-existing medical condition?

All insurance providers will likely ask for your medical background. The information provided will be utilized to decide on the coverage of pre-existing medical conditions. The definitions of pre-existing conditions vary among insurers. However, it can be either:

  • An unknown medical condition such as the presence of a tumor and lump within the body.
  • Previous illness or injury.
  • Continuous treatment received from medical professionals, such as blood transfusions.
  • Unidentified symptoms that need treatment, such as bleeding and pain.

If you find an insurance provider willing to cover pre-existing conditions, you should:

  • Provide a thorough medical report history that includes the entirety of present and previous health issues.
  • Know that refraining from providing information that could be used against you in case of a condition arising could invalidate your claims.
  • Know that insurance companies may deny certain pre-existing conditions completely since certain costs are guaranteed at the time of the insurance policy.

Save Money On International Health Insurance

Looking at the factors affecting the cost of international health insurance plans, it is easy to notice that it can be expensive. However, there are ways to ensure you're in no way paying more than what you ought to when looking for the best insurance policy for you and your family. Here are some handy tips to receive a better deal:

  • Go for modular or customized plans: While some companies lump many benefits into one package, no one size fits all. You deserve a personalized plan as you'll have the option of deciding to pay an additional fee for certain services such as dental insurance.
  • Make sure your insurance is appropriate for the country: Most expat medical insurance plans are designed for certain zones of coverage. You will save money if you choose the appropriate zone for your needs.
  • Select the most suitable base plan to meet your needs: Once you've found insurance that offers modular plans, then you'll be able to focus on choosing the right base plan that meets your requirements. Comparing more extensive and basic plans that offer additional advantages is worthwhile.

Use Mail Forwarding For Insurance Documents

Now that you have acquired a sound understanding of what expat insurance is and what to look out for when getting this insurance, be sure to get international insurance that will leave you free of health worries while you move to another country.

Moreover, it is also critical to inquire about reputable mail forwarding services when considering international insurance. Mail services for expats will allow you to receive or send any critical insurance documentation from wherever you are currently visiting or residing.

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