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How Much Does Medical Treatment Cost Abroad?

Home Blog How Much Does Medical Treatment Cost Abroad?

Alex Lea

Product Manager

Moving to another country as an expat is an incredible adventure. But no matter where you and your family settle, one thing you must consider is the cost of medical treatment costs. Healthcare differs abroad, and prices of private medical treatment might vary.

As an expat, it’s likely you and your family will require medical treatment at some point while you’re living and working abroad. But if you come from a country that offers free, high-quality state healthcare, you can’t assume that will be the case in your new location.

Different countries and regions have different healthcare systems – and different costs – for medical treatment. Not only will you need to factor in these costs, if you rely on state healthcare you’ll also have to negotiate an unfamiliar system, probably in an unfamiliar language.

Nor can you rely on the European Health Insurance Card (or Global Health Insurance Card if you’re from the UK) to give you full coverage for medical treatment. These cards are designed for temporary visitors to EU countries, and won’t give you access to all the treatment you may need while you’re a resident.

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What is the cost of global healthcare?

Costs of healthcare vary from country to country, but they can be enormous if you’re faced with paying them out of your own pocket. In 2019, The Association of British Insurers dealt with a £200,000 claim to treat a brain haemorrhage in China, £89,000 after a heart attack in Turkey and £153,00 for treatment for a fractured arm in San Francisco.

Americans pay more for healthcare per person than any other developed country ($9,892 in 2016), with Switzerland ($7,919) and Canada ($4,753) in second and third place.

However, the healthcare models in those countries are different: the USA has an out-of-pocket system, where people pay for their own healthcare. In Switzerland private health insurance is compulsory for residents, who also pay part of the cost of their treatment, while Canada has a publicly funded health system.

What should I know about global healthcare before moving abroad?

Wherever you intend to live, you need to understand how the healthcare system in that location works and what access is available for expats.

This will help you to understand when and how much you’ll need to pay to receive medical services.

If you’re going to be paying taxes in your new home, you should qualify for any government-backed healthcare services. However, it’s likely that there will be additional healthcare costs no matter where you relocate and what type of system they use.

This is true even in the UK, which has a National Health Service. Here, people often pay out of their own pockets for medical treatments including dentistry, optometry, physiotherapy, mental health and cosmetic surgery. Many people are also expected to pay for their own prescription medicines.

And of course, the costs of different types of treatment vary based on the treatment you will need, the length of time you’ll need to stay in hospital and other factors.

What is the definition of an expat or expatriate?
Read here

Reasons to have international health insurance

International health insurance can protect you from some of the costs of medical treatment abroad, giving you a safety net if you and you or your family require special or urgent healthcare. It’s designed for individuals and families who move around the world, giving you access to private healthcare in different countries rather than just one.

It can also be comprehensive, offering services that domestic health insurance may not, such as medical evacuation.

At William Russell, our international health insurance can cover you for all sorts of things such as:

  • Pre-admission tests
  • Accommodation, if you need to stay away from home for medical treatment
  • Fees for surgeons, anaesthetists and doctors
  • Nursing care
  • Drugs and surgical dressings
  • Operating theatre charges
  • Intensive care
  • Pathology, X-rays, scans and diagnostic tests
  • Physiotherapy

Find out more about the range of services we can cover– including how we support with cancer treatment.

Who needs international health insurance?

International health insurance is especially suited to people who will be living in a foreign country for a long period of time.

You can buy international health insurance for one person or a whole family, and it covers you in almost every country worldwide. It’s designed for expats, individuals, couples and whole families, students, frequent business travellers, remote workers, high net worth individuals (HNWIs) and whole companies.

Why do people become expats?
See the top 10 reasons here

Find out more about who could benefit from international health insurance.

How much does international health insurance cost?

There are various types of insurance for expats and their families.

Like other types of health insurance plan, expat medical insurance is calculated according to a number of variables. It takes into account things like:

  • The age of people on your plan – as a general rule, it’s believed the older you are, the more likely you are to encounter health problems, meaning the more you are likely to pay for health insurance.
  • The level of cover you choose – this means the maximum amount your plan will pay out. If you select the highest possible cap, you can expect to pay more, but there are cheaper caps available for families with tighter budgets.
  • Your deductible/excess – this is the amount you will need to pay towards a claim. We have a handy guide on how to choose an excess to suit your needs.
  • Where you’ll be living – different parts of the world incur different fees. If you’re planning to move to a country with an out-of-pocket healthcare system, like the USA, expect to pay significant costs.

If you travel regularly between one country and another, you could choose ordinary travel insurance. This will cover you for the duration of your trip. However, this is designed exclusively for travellers and is not suited for families looking to relocate.

If you are planning to live for an extended period of time in another country, you may want to look into domestic health insurance. This treats you as if you were a national living in that country and gives you the same level of coverage an ordinary citizen would expect.

However, if you combine frequent travelling with living abroad, your best option may be international health insurance, which is designed exclusively for expats and their families.

Want to know more about how much the
average expat health insurance policy costs?

What’s the William Russell difference?

With more than 29 years’ experience in global insurance, William Russell has built up an international reputation for personal service, fair prices, and clear communication.

Find out more about how we can help expats like you.

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