If you become ill or are involved in an accident, what quality of healthcare would you receive in your expat country? Or worse, what if you can’t work due to a disabling illness or lose your life? Who would provide for your family? Many expats find out about the social security system of their expat country only once they experience it… And often wish they had known more about it earlier and subscribed to private expat insurance.
Beyond the convenience, having an expatriate insurance in place is not a luxury; it’s often a necessity for people living abroad.
Here are 8 reasons why private international insurance is so important for expats.
1. Get quality healthcare wherever you live
It can be stressful to experience an unexpected illness or even receive routine medical care, in a country where you are not familiar with the local social security system, and where you do not necessarily speak the language. There are in fact several factors that can make the process of going through treatment difficult for an expat such as the difference in culture, the language barrier or the low quality of healthcare in the expat country. An international medical insurance gives you the guarantee that you will get quality private health care regardless of which country you move to and whatever local healthcare system is in place.
2. An expat insurance is often better than a local health cover
Besides an international medical insurance, you may also consider an expat income protection plan or an expat life insurance. An expat income protection insurance provides you with a replacement income in case of accident or disabling illness that prevents you from working, while an expat life insurance will pay a fixed amount to your dependents should you pass away.
3. An expat insurance is more suited to the expat lifestyle
Depending on the country you are going to live in, there is sometimes the possibility of signing for local insurance plans for health, life insurance and income protection. However local insurance often comes with restrictions, such as a limited network of doctors or healthcare providers you can have access to, or a limited geographic area where you can claim your insurance. Be it with a medical insurance, an income protection plan or a life insurance, the international cover will often be a better option than the local one as it gives you the freedom to be covered worldwide (as long as it’s included in your zone of cover).
If you travel extensively, often move around for work or often move from one country to another, expat insurance plans are the best solution as you will generally remain insured within your zone of cover, and the insurance travels with you.
4. Be covered in your home country as well as in your country of expatriation
Thinking about their health, expats often feel the need to stay connected to their home country, where their family doctor knows their medical history, where they are familiar with the health system and procedures, where they know which consultant they would like to see. However, when moving to a different country you lose your access to the social security system of your home country, as you are no longer a resident or tax payer. Access to healthcare in your home country becomes limited to emergency care and becomes a service you may have to pay for. With an expat medical insurance, you can be covered for medical care in your home country (as long as it’s included in your zone of cover).
5. Keep control of your health costs
Not having an international health insurance cover in place puts you at risk of paying your medical bills out of your own pocket. These costs can quickly become very high.
This is often the case in countries with a two tier health care system: a public health care system which is free but of mediocre quality and a private health care system which is excellent but extremely expensive. For example, in some countries, the cost of one night in a private hospital room can easily be around £800. In case of emergency, an international health insurance policy allows you to be treated in the private sector without having to worry about the financial implications.
6. Get treated faster
In countries where public health care is free, the public institutions are oversubscribed and the waiting lists for certain treatments or specialists are extremely long. This is the case in the UK for example; there is a good quality, free public healthcare system however sometimes the long waiting lists can mean waiting weeks or even months for something as simple as an appointment with a specialist. Health insurance allows you to be treated quickly, in the private sector, and to avoid long waiting lists.
7. Freedom of choice
If your health insurance is a local insurance, your choice will often be restricted to a network of pre-approved doctors and medical centres, or sometimes limited within the city or region where you subscribed to your insurance. An international health insurance offers more flexibility in terms of allowing you your choice of doctor, hospital and the time of your appointment.
8. Be treated by a doctor in your native language
In many countries, to be treated by a doctor speaking your native language you will need to turn towards the international medical centres. These establishments are often expensive and a private health insurance allows you to be treated within these international medical centres whilst enabling you to keep your costs in check.
In order to be sure of benefiting from a comprehensive medical cover, it is advisable to subscribe to your international health insurance before you move to your new country of residence, or to do it soon after your arrival. This is because if you develop a medical condition before you subscribe to an insurance contract it is possible that it will not be covered. Find out more in our article Expat medical insurance and pre-existing conditions.
This advice is also valid for life insurance and income protection, where signing up as early on as possible will guarantee you better yearly premiums.
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- Germany - Are you moving to Germany? Read our expat guide on the German healthcare system and your different options of expat health insurance in Germany.