When experiencing an unplanned illness, or even routine medical care, in a country where you are not familiar with the health system, and where you do not necessarily speak the language, an international health insurance can help ease the process. It offers the reassurance of good benefits and, most of all, ensures that you are able to receive high quality care.

But beyond the convenience, subscribing to an international health insurance as an expat is not a luxury; it’s often a necessity. Some countries have poor infrastructure and a weak public healthcare system public healthcare and getting private health insurance is vital to make sure you get quality treatment in case of illness or accident. Other countries require expats to take out private health care.

Here are 8 reasons why getting international health insurance as an expat is so important.

international health insurance

1. Get quality healthcare wherever you live

If you become ill or are involved in an accident, what quality of healthcare would you receive in your expat country? Many expats find out about the healthcare system of their expat country only once they experience it… And often wish they had known more about it earlier and subscribed to private health insurance. 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 even worse: the low quality of healthcare in the expat country. That’s why it’s particularly important for an expat to be prepared in advance with regard to the healthcare system in their new country. Not all countries are equal in the quality of the healthcare they provide. An international health insurance gives you the guarantee that you will get quality private medical care regardless of which country you move to and whatever local healthcare system is in place.

2. An international health insurance is often better than a local health cover

Depending on the country you are going to live in, there is sometimes the possibility of having a local health cover in place; however local insurance plans often come 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 seek medical services. An international health insurance is often a better option as it gives you the freedom to be treated by the doctor of your choice, at the medical facility of your choice.

3. 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 international health insurance, you can be covered for medical care in your home country (as long as it’s included in your zone of cover).

4. Be covered worldwide

Depending on the insurer you choose and the zones of cover that they offer, you may benefit from an automatic ‘Worldwide excluding the USA’ zone of cover. If you have a smaller/more restricted zone of cover it is always possible to choose a larger zone in order to give you more options on where you are able to seek treatment.

For those who travel extensively, who often move around for work or who often move from one country to another, an international health insurance is the best solution as you will generally remain insured within your zone of cover, and the insurance travels with you!

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 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.

Why is it important to subscribe to an international health insurance as early as possible?

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 health insurance and pre-existing conditions.

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