How to Choose the right
Expat Health Insurance
Picking the right insurance products for your circumstances can be tricky. That’s why we’ve created an up-to-date guide on what you should look out for when choosing your expat health insurance plan.
Do I need an expat health insurance plan?
If you want access to private healthcare as an expat, there are typically three types of insurance policy you can consider:
- Local Health Insurance
Expats who live permanently in another country sometimes purchase domestic health insurance policies. Whilst this is fine for some expats, it can be restrictive. For example, you may only be entitled to treatment in low-quality hospitals and won’t necessarily have medical cover for trips abroad.
- Travel insurance
This sometimes includes cover for accident and emergency treatment, but usually, it covers you only for temporary trips abroad.
- International health insurance
International or expat health insurance is a good solution for expats who want access to the best hospitals and doctors where they live, and who want full coverage when they travel or make trips home.
An international policy seems like the obvious choice. The downside? International health insurance is more expensive than both travel insurance and local health insurance. However, many expats find access to high-quality hospitals and English-speaking doctors priceless. Especially in places like Southeast Asia and Africa which have very different public healthcare systems as many expats from European countries enjoy at home!
Step 1 – Find a plan that covers your destination(s)
Once you know you want or need an international policy the first thing you need to do (if you haven’t already) is to work out where you’ll need cover. Finding a provider that covers your destination(s) is essential to avoid wasting time.
Many expat health insurance plans come with international cover as standard. But what does ‘international’ mean exactly? Does it mean cover in all countries, or just certain countries? Find a provider that is transparent about any excluded locations.
All William Russell health insurance plans come with a choice of three different ‘zones’ of international cover.
|Zone 1||Zone 2||Zone 3|
|Worldwide cover (excl. the USA)||Full cover in most countries, limited cover where private healthcare is expensive & no cover in the USA||A special area of cover for residents in Indonesia, with limited cover where private healthcare is expensive & no cover in the USA|
Most of our members will never need cover for private healthcare in the USA. So, rather than making them pay for something they’d never use, we’ve made cover in the USA optional.
Step 2 – Pick the right plan
Our research shows that when would-be expats start thinking about their health and well-being abroad, it’s usually considered in very general terms. Most people simply want to ensure they have access to private care. But while most health insurance gives you access to private healthcare, the health plan you choose defines the rules and limitations of that access. That’s why it’s so important to pick the right plan.
Many providers have will provide standard and optional benefits. As standard, all our health plans include cover for:
- Hospital treatment
- Cancer treatment
- Visits to the doctor*
- And emergency medical evacuation.
Beyond these standard benefits, we differentiate our health plans by their additional benefits (e.g., mental health treatment, maternity care) and their levels of cover (i.e., how much the plan benefits cover you for).
We have two types of plan; value plans, and comprehensive plans.
Private healthcare and health insurance are expensive, so we’ve designed our value plans to keep your costs down by focusing on cover for serious medical conditions.
The comprehensive plans give you a wider range of cover for health conditions and treatments, and the benefits generally come with higher annual limits.
Find out more about the different health plans and what they cover.
*If you choose the Bronze plan, we only cover your visits to the doctor following your discharge from the hospital.
Step 3 – Personalise your policy
We live in an age of consumer choice and personalisation. While most people usually think of consumer choice with respect to lifestyle matters, personalisation is extremely topical in healthcare. For example, our health plans cover tests to sequence the genes of cancer cells, which can help oncologists give you a treatment plan personalised to your condition.
We think it’s only right that you can personalise your health insurance plan to suit your circumstances too. So, once you’ve picked your health plan, you can personalise it with a range of optional benefits and add-ons. Not everyone needs cover for expensive benefits like dental treatment, so we’ve made those benefits optional.
If you need them, there are several optional benefits available with each plan for:
- Well-being: Increase your well-being benefit on the Silver and Gold plans
- Emergency medical evacuation: Increase your cover for emergency medical evacuations
- Private hospital accommodation: Choose private accommodation during hospitals stays on the Bronze and SilverLite plans
- Routine dental care: Add cover for routine dental care on the SilverLite plan
- Complex dental care: Add cover for complex dental care on the Gold plan
- Routine & complex dental care: Add cover for routine and complex dental care on the Silver plan
- Personal Accident cover: Add cover for personal accident
- Direct billing: Add direct billing for everyday medical care such as doctor visits and specialist consultations*
*Only available in certain countries.
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Step 4 – Pick the right excess
When you first started thinking about health insurance, you were probably just looking for a policy to pay for your private healthcare. So, why bother with an excess? After all, an excess means you pay towards your medical bills before the insurance company starts paying.
Counter-intuitively, not having an excess (known as ‘nil excess’) is unpopular with our members. Why? Having a nil excess means more expensive premiums: sometimes, health plans with nil excess can be 20% more expensive than a plan with the smallest excess available.
Whilst the right excess amount depends on your circumstances, most of our member choose an excess somewhere between US$50 and US$10,000 per claim. There are a couple of excess strategies that are popular with our members:
1/ Bronze plan with a high excess
If you’re only concerned about cover for serious medical conditions – such as cancer care and hospitalisations following an accident or illness – then chances are you’re considering a Bronze plan. With a Bronze plan, choosing a higher excess might be a good option to save money on your premium. True, you won’t have cover for medical expenses that fall under those amounts. But if you’re mainly concerned with serious medical conditions like cancer, your total medical expenses are going to dwarf you’re excess.
2/ Silver or Gold plan with a low excess
If you’re considering a Silver or Gold plan, then you’re likely interested in cover for everyday medical care such as doctor visits and pharmacy prescriptions. The cost of a doctor visit or physiotherapy session depends on where you live, but they’re unlikely to cost more than a couple of hundred dollars. Now, if you chose a high excess such as US$800 per claim or US$500 per annum with your Silver or Gold plan, you wouldn’t have much cover for your doctor visits. That’s why members with these plans typically choose a low or nil excess.
Frequently asked questions
Here are some common questions we get asked about international health insurance. To see more FAQs on global health insurance click here.
Does expat health insurance cover my partner and children?
When you apply for your health plan, you can include your spouse/partner and any number of children/step-children for an additional cost. Both you and your spouse/partner must be under the age of 75 when you apply, but once you’ve purchased your health plan you can renew for as long as you need to.
You can include your unmarried children up to the age of 18 (or 25, if they’re in full-time education such as university studies).
Can I purchase expat health insurance for my employees or colleagues?
Yes, in fact, half of our customers are companies who want health insurance for their employees and the families of their employees.
Whether you’re a start-up with only one or two employees, or you’re an SME setting up an overseas office we can help you include international medical insurance as part of your employee benefits programme.
Employee eligibility is entirely flexible. You can cover only a certain tier of employee (e.g., directors, senior managers), or you can set different levels of cover for different tiers of employee (e.g., senior managers on the Gold plan, junior staff on the Silver plan).Find out more about business policies
Where can I see prices for a health plan?
You can see accurate prices on our online quote tool. It only takes a few seconds to see prices for all our plans for you and your family. It doesn’t cost you or commit you to anything. We’ll only call you to follow up on your quote and won’t spam you with calls and emails. If you tell us you’re not interested—we always respect your decision.
Our website is the best place to see prices for our plans. We don’t feature on price comparison websites and we don’t share our premiums with third parties.Get a quick quote