In some countries, international health insurance is a legal requirement for expats, while in others expats might be entitled to treatment through the public healthcare system. Either way, many expats moving abroad choose to purchase international health insurance to help ensure that they can get access to the best possible healthcare for themselves and their family.
Choosing the right health insurance is one of the most important decisions you’ll have to make when making the move abroad, so it’s important to think about exactly what you need from a good health insurance plan, and to do your research accordingly.
In this article on how to find the best health insurance
How to find the best health insurance while living abroad
International health insurance is a type of health insurance policy that covers the cost of medical treatment while you’re living abroad.
There are many things to consider when taking out a new international health insurance policy. You will need to know the level of coverage you’ll need, either to fulfil a legal requirement or to ensure you can access the healthcare you need.
You’ll also need to know the area of cover you need insurance for. You will need to set an excess in order to help you fit your insurance premiums to your expat budget. And you will want to consider which optional extras you want to add to your policy.
Should I get private health insurance when moving abroad?
When moving overseas, it’s not always clear whether or not you will need private health insurance, or even why you might need it.
If you’re moving to a new country to work full time, you may be entitled to access public healthcare – although this often requires you to register as a permanent resident and to start paying local taxes. If you already have a job offer lined up, you may be provided with private healthcare coverage by your employer – though this may not cover family or loved ones who are travelling with you. If you’re a digital nomad, or are only planning to find part-time or remote work, you are more likely to need your own private medical insurance policy.
Some of the most common reasons for taking out international health insurance include:
In some countries you will be required by law to take out international health insurance before you arrive. This is actually more common than you might think, with more and more countries now making health insurance mandatory for expats coming in.
Access to emergency care
Falling ill can be stressful at the best of times, let alone when you are abroad. The last thing you will want when in an emergency are to find long waiting times at hospitals, doctors who don’t speak your language or limited access to high-quality medical equipment.
One of the most valuable features of international health insurance is that it will give you access to private medical care. This gives you a better chance of finding medical staff who speak your native language, and the highest quality treatment available. Many international medical insurance providers are connected to a global network of medical centres, so your provider should be able to help you find the right facility when you need it.
Another benefit of international health insurance is that you will have access to a specialist range of treatments. This includes coverage for treatments that may not be available through your new home country’s state healthcare system.
International health insurance can provide coverage across multiple countries and regions, making it particularly useful for expats or digital nomads who travel frequently. While taking out a new international health insurance, it’s important to ask your provider about their areas of cover to ensure you will be covered in the regions you intend to live or travel to.
Medical evacuations (Medevacs)
In the rare event that your new home country or region is not able to offer the necessary level of care you need, your international health insurance provider may be able to provide a medical evacuation. This is where your provider will arrange and cover the cost of transferring you to another country or region, or even your home country, should you require life or limb-saving treatment.
One of the biggest challenges of getting medical care as an expat is finding doctors who speak your language. With international health insurance, you will have access to a network of English-speaking doctors, making it easier for you to communicate your medical needs and get the right treatment.
International health insurance plans can also save you money in the long run. By having a comprehensive plan, you can avoid paying for expensive medical treatments out-of-pocket. This can be especially useful if you need treatment for major diseases such as cancer, or if you will require ongoing care after the diagnosis of a new illness.
Your international health insurance policy should be flexible, allowing you to add or remove coverage you do and don’t need. This gives you the opportunity to add coverage for specific types of treatment, such as dentistry and maternity cover.
Mental health support
Living in another country can take a toll on your mental health. Around 1 in 7 people globally will experience a mental health disorder each year, with expats significantly more at risk – moving somewhere new brings challenges both good and bad – research suggests almost half of all expats are at risk of anxiety and depression. Your international health insurance may include mental health cover, allowing you to access professional help and support when you need it.
What makes a good health insurance plan for expats?
As an expat, having a good health insurance plan is essential for your peace of mind and financial security. But with so many options available, it can be difficult to know what to look for in a good health insurance plan.
Here are five key factors to consider to make sure you get the best health insurance cover:
1/ Comprehensive cover
A good health insurance plan should provide comprehensive cover for everything you might need while abroad, including medical treatments, hospital stays, and access to emergency services.
When shopping for health insurance, be sure to find a plan that covers a wide range of medical treatments and procedures, including any specialist treatments and prescription medications you may need.
2/ Global network of facilities
As an expat or digital nomad, it’s important to have access to a global network of health services, including hospitals, clinics, and medical specialists. A good health insurance plan should offer access to a wide network of providers so you can receive the best possible medical care wherever you are in the world.
3/ Cost-effective options
The cost of medical treatment can be high, especially for expats. Recent data shows that prices also seem to be increasing globally. A good health insurance plan should relieve you from any worry over medical expenses, covering all out-of-pocket fees associated with the cost of medical treatment.
4/ Emergency expatriation
As mentioned above, in case of a medical emergency, it is important to have access to emergency expatriation services. A good health insurance plan should cover the cost of emergency transportation to another country or a medical facility when life or limb-threatening treatment is required.
5/ Customer service
Finally, a good health insurance provider should provide excellent customer service, with a 24/7 helpline and dedicated customer service representatives on hand to help in times of need. The process of filing a claim should always be quick and pain-free.
What to look for when buying health insurance
When researching international health insurance providers, it’s important to know what to look for. This will help you to determine whether the provider you are purchasing health insurance from is reputable and legitimate, and will be there to help you when you need them.
To that end, it’s important to look for the following things when researching how to find the best health insurance:
Does the provider have good reviews online?
A quick Google search of your shortlisted providers will lead you to websites like Trustpilot and Feefo. These are a good source of customer reviews and will help you to see whether your provider has a good reputation.
Does your provider offer testimonials?
If your shortlisted providers are reputable, they should offer testimonials on their website too. These often reveal key benefits of that provider’s service, for instance by highlighting excellent customer service.
Does your provider offer excellent customer service?
When the time comes to make a claim, you’ll want to be sure your provider is willing and able to help you. Be sure that your provider offers a 24/7 helpline with a human on the other end of the phone, and their claims process is quick and easy. The last thing you’ll want when you’re ill is to jump through extra hoops.
Can you speak to a human?
If you’re stuck between comparing insurance providers, try picking up the phone. Speaking to your insurance provider directly can help you to answer any questions, and you may even get the chance to negotiate your plan and premiums to find a better price.
Ask ‘what does international health insurance cover?’
Not all international health insurance policies are created equal, so don’t assume the plan you’re offered by one provider will be the same as all the others. Read the fine print of your plan to make sure you are getting the level and type of coverage you need.
Double-check against the requirements of your new home country
Remember that your international health insurance is not just for your own benefit, but will fulfil an essential legal obligation. Once you have an outline of your plan, compare it against the health insurance requirements of your new home country to make sure it ticks all the necessary boxes.
What should you do if things go wrong?
If you end up taking out a policy that’s not right for you, it’s important to know whether you can terminate your policy early. International health insurance providers should provide a clause in their contract that allows you to end your contract within two weeks, or sometimes longer (so long as you haven’t made a claim), if you discover your policy is not right for you. Make sure to check the fine print for this clause before committing to a policy.
How to research health insurance
Choosing the right health insurance plan will have a huge effect on your quality of life while living abroad, so it’s important to do your research and find a plan that meets your needs.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to the process of researching health insurance, to help you find the best plan for you and your family:
Step 1: Determine your needs
The first step in researching health insurance is to determine your needs. Consider your current and future medical needs, any pre-existing conditions, and any other factors that may affect your insurance coverage. This should include where in the world you need to be covered – are you planning to settle in one country, or will you be a digital nomad planning to move around?
Make a list of your priorities and what you need from your health insurance plan, ready for step two.
Step 2: Compare plans
Once you’ve determined your needs, it’s time to compare health insurance plans. Look for plans that offer comprehensive coverage, access to a global network of providers, English-speaking doctors, cost-effective payment options, medical evacuations and excellent customer service.
Consider the costs of each plan including premiums, excesses, co-payments, deductibles, and any out-of-pocket expenses. This will help you find the best possible plan within your budget.
Step 3: Read the small print
Before settling on a health insurance plan, take time to read the small print. Make sure you understand the terms and conditions of each plan, including what is covered, what is not covered, early-termination clauses and any exclusions. Pay special attention to cover limits and any restrictions that may apply.
Step 4: Check the provider network
It is important to check the provider network for each health insurance plan you are considering. Make sure the plan offers access to a wide network of reputable providers, including hospitals, clinics, and medical specialists, so you can receive the medical care you need, no matter where you are in the world.
Step 5: Read reviews
Reading reviews from other expats can be a valuable source of information when researching health insurance. Use websites like Feefo and Trustpilot to gauge the general opinion from other insurance customers, and read reviews and testimonials from expats who have taken out a similar plan to the one you are considering.
Step 6: Make a decision
Now that you’re ready to make a decision. Choose the health insurance plan that meets your needs and provides the cover you need, at a price that suits your budget. Playing around with your excess will allow you to lower the cost of your repayments, but remember you may have to pay more when it comes time to make a claim.
Also note that some insurance providers will offer you a discount if you choose to pay for one year’s insurance up-front, rather than paying monthly. Keep in mind that, while it’s important to fit the cost of your insurance into your living budget, having comprehensive health insurance cover can save you a lot of money if something were to go wrong.
Looking for an international health insurance plan you can trust?
No matter where you go, you can take one thing off your mind. William Russell offers international health insurance that covers you for everything from minor injuries to long hospital stays. We can even offer medical evacuation to patients who require emergency treatment that isn’t available locally.
At William Russell, we have been providing worldwide health cover for over 30 years, helping expats like you and their families to settle into their new lives overseas. We are committed to excellent customer service for all our members and this is backed up by our 4.6-star rating on Feefo. Speak to us today to find out more about how our international health insurance policy could support you.