In Part One of his two-part article, Jenkin Au of Global Health Insurance looks at health insurance – the benefits of an international plan over a local one, and what the typical plan can cover.
As a newly minted expat or a soon-to-be local, the last thing you want to have on your mind is an accident. However, accidents do happen and you are rarely prepared for them when they do. The next thing that comes into your mind after you have recovered is the medical bill – how big is it going to be? This all depends on what your injury was and where you are in the world, but generally, it’s going to be much more expensive than back home – maybe even unaffordable. The best way to deal with these unexpected costs is to have someone else pay for them – through health insurance.
The problem with getting health insurance is that you never know what to get. Do I get a local plan or an international plan? What does my plan cover? What else should I think about adding into my policy? How can I keep the costs of my policy low?
As an expat, either a local or an international health insurance may make sense to you. However, in general, international plans work much more in your favour, before and after you leave your country of stay.
The biggest benefit of an international health insurance plan is that it is portable. For example, you, with international health insurance, are in Bangkok to help your company set up a new brand for an extended period of time, but you still need health insurance afterwards; you are going to Auckland to set up another branch. The same coverage you were receiving in Bangkok is applicable around the world, regardless of where you go – hence “international”. You can even take the policy back to the UK with you should you return, giving you the same high levels of coverage at home as you enjoy abroad.
Another benefit of a worldwide medical plan is that it is generally guaranteed renewable. No matter how many claims you make throughout the duration of your plan, and regardless of how poor your health has become, you normally will be able to renew the same coverage for as long as you want to keep it in force.
Finally, international medical plans are highly customisable. Almost all of them come with in-patient coverage by default – this means you will be covered if you have any treatments that require you to stay in hospital overnight, including surgeries and intensive care treatments. These are the big-ticket items that can cost thousands of pounds for just a few nights. In addition to in-patient coverage, most people opt for out-patient coverage as well, so they can be covered for when they see a general practitioner or receive other minor treatment. Generally, out-patient will cover anything that doesn’t require overnight treatment.
In addition to these, you can opt for dental coverage and maternity coverage. If you care about your dental health and know that it will cost you a lot in your area, dental coverage can be a great addition to the plan. As for maternity coverage, delivering a baby abroad easily represents thousands of pounds in pre-natal checkups and care – it is very expensive to deliver a baby abroad, especially at a medical facility that can provide a high standard or care, and maternity coverage can ensure that you have the access to care while protecting your finances.
Are you going to be in an area with poor health services? It might be important to get medical evacuation coverage. In the event that your injury is far greater than the medical facilities in your area can handle, you will need to go to the nearest area with a hospital or medical facility that can properly treat you. Transportation to go to another hospital can range from ambulances to medical air transportation. Medical evacuation will cover you for that and might even include coverage to pay for a family member to accompany you in cases of emergency as well.
Finally, coverage limits on an international plan are much, much higher than on a local plan. You can claim very high amounts, and for some conditions and plans, it could be just about limitless. This means that you don’t have to worry about the capacity of your plan to cover your costs and you can focus on recovering.
Before we get into how to save money on a plan, we need to understand how it’s calculated. I’ll be looking at that next.