April, Aetna, Axa, Allianz, Bupa, Cigna… There are a vast number of insurance companies offering international medical insurance. However, faced with such a multitude of choice, an expatriate can feel a little lost. An international medical insurance is a complex product and “the best international health insurance” recommended by another expat is not necessarily the best for you.
So instead of a list of the best international health insurance companies, we thought it would be more useful to provide you with the tools to identify the best international expat insurance for you, which is the one that best matches your profile and needs.
Learn about the healthcare system in your expat country
Before you start researching health insurance policies, the first thing you need to do is to find out more about the healthcare system of the country you are moving to.
As an expat, are you entitled or not to the healthcare of your new country? Answering this question will help you determine whether you need a full coverage or an insurance that you use as an add-on to your local medical cover.
Another tip: try to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the healthcare in your expat country in order to know which gaps your private medical cover should fill.
For instance, some countries have a two-tier healthcare system: one example of this is the United Kingdom, whose National Health Service (NHS) offers free healthcare to residents. However, the waiting lists can be long. On the other hand, the private healthcare is very efficient but expensive. With the aim to save money without compromising on the quality of your cover, you could consider subscribing to an international private health insurance that covers you only for hospitalisations. In that case, you would use the public health services for routine medical appointments and private hospitals in case of accident or illness.
Other countries offer excellent healthcare services, but these can be expensive (e.g. Hong Kong, Singapore, USA). In this situation the best international health insurance policy for you would be one with sufficient reimbursement limits.
Conversely, if you move to a country with a less developed healthcare system and infrastructure (e.g. some in Sub-Saharan Africa), the best expat health insurance for you will be one that includes evacuation and/or repatriation.
Find out if there are any waiting periods
In the insurance sector, a waiting period is a specific time limit beginning from start date of your contract and which usually lasts several months, during which you cannot benefit from certain aspects of your contract.
For example, the majority of health insurance companies apply waiting periods for dental, optical, preventative and maternity care (the waiting periods for each benefit are not necessarily the same length). Other insurance companies may apply a general wait period of three months to the beginning of your contract, during which time only unplanned illnesses and emergencies are covered.
In order to find what health insurance policy is best suited to your personal medical needs, it is important to know what type of waiting periods apply to your contract and which benefits they will affect, especially if you have pre-existing medical conditions at the time of signing up to your health insurance policy.
Will your pre-existing medical conditions be excluded?
Having a complicated medical history or simply a non-life threatening chronic medical condition can often lead to exclusions or price surcharge when subscribing to an expat insurance policy. In that case, the best expat medical insurance for you will be the one that best takes into account your medical history. Find out more in the article Buying expat medical insurance when suffering from pre-existing conditions.
Cheap international health insurance: beware!
Price is a key criterion in choosing your health insurance. However, it should not be the sole focus.
A policy may be cheap in the first instance, but it could end up being very costly. For example, if your policy has too low a benefit limit and you become ill with complications, you may end up having to dig deep into your own pocket.
It is, however, possible to find insurance at a reasonable price without compromising on the quality of your medical care. Read our tips for cheap international health insurance without compromising on the quality of your health cover.
In the event of a hospitalisation, most international health insurance companies will establish a direct settlement with your hospital. However, for outpatient treatment, most international insurance companies require you to pay and then claim.
Fast and easy claim procedures are therefore a key aspect of a good health insurance policy.
In order to make to best choice, it is important to find out about the following: How does the insurance company reimburse? Do I need to take a claim form with me to my consultation? In which languages are the claim forms available?
Expat Assure can help you make the right choice
Other factors also need to be taken into consideration when choosing your international health insurance, such as the financial strength of the company and whether the annual increases of their premiums are reasonable and stable.
Knowing whether the insurance company you have chosen is trustworthy requires a good knowledge of the market. This is why Expat Assure, an independent and specialised broker, is well placed to help you choose the insurance company and policy that best matches your profile and needs.
The best international health insurance for you exists
In conclusion, the ‘best international health insurance’ for everyone does not exist, as everyone has different needs and expectations. However, the best expat health insurance for you is out there: it consists of a tailored insurance, offering the best compromise between the legislation of the country to which you are being expatriated, your medical profile, and your requirements.
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We build partnerships with reputable insurance companies who are long-established in the expatriate insurance industry. All the international insurance companies we work with have both individual and corporate plans. Find out more about our partners here.
Visitors staying for more than 6 months in the UK must pay an ‘Immigration Health Surcharge’. Since Brexit, European citizens are also included.