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international health insurance?

If you’re thinking of taking out international health insurance, you may find yourself overwhelmed with choices. It can be hard to know who to trust, who offers the best price and which health insurance companies provide the right level of cover for you and your family. This guide will show you which questions to ask to ensure you get the right deal. We’ll also help you get started to take out your first international health insurance plan. Compare international health insurance and make the best decision.

Compare international health insurance

While you’re living abroad, international health insurance is the best way to ensure you and your family can access the treatment you need from the best-quality healthcare providers, without having to pay a huge costs.

But choosing an international health insurance provider is about much more than finding a company to cover your costs. You’ll also want to be sure you can:

  • Access help and support when you need it – for instance, if you need policy wording explained
  • Rely on your provider to connect you to the best healthcare providers in your new home
  • Retain flexibility, so that you can choose the services that suit your ever-changing needs

That’s why it’s essential to shop around and compare international health insurance for expats before deciding on a provider and a plan that’s right for you.

What should international health insurance cover?

With healthcare growing ever-more expensive, there has never been a more important time for expats to choose health insurance. But if this is your first time taking out international health insurance, you may be unsure of a few things:

  • Do I really need international health insurance?
  • Will it cover me for the things I need?
  • On the other hand, will I end up paying for cover for things I don’t need?

You won’t find any simple answers to these questions, so it’s vital you do your research before you compare international health insurance for expats. You will need to know:

  • The type of healthcare system in the area you’re moving to, and whether you’re covered by any state healthcare as an expat
  • Your personal circumstances, and how they may affect your policy
  • The level of cover you feel comfortable taking – remember, a lower level of cover could mean a higher risk of having to pay for treatment yourself

But wherever you’re relocating, taking out international health insurance is always a safe bet. With expat health cover, you can avoid paying potentially expensive healthcare costs out of your own pocket. This can include everything from basic services like GP visits, accident and emergency, and prescription drugs, to larger and more complex services like cancer care.

International health insurance is there for you and your family if you find yourself in need of healthcare that is not covered by your ordinary rights as a foreign national.

International health insurance doesn’t just cover healthcare costs, either. You will also be covered for supplementary costs, such as ambulance transfers, and medical evacuations (medevacs) if you have a life or limb-threatening condition that can’t be treated in your location.

With international health insurance, you’re not only covered in the country you intend to move to, but within your entire area of cover. This means if you cross regional, state or country borders, you’ll still be protected so long as you’re within your area of cover.

What is the best health insurance for expats when you compare providers?

The best health insurance policy for you will depend on your individual needs and circumstances. However, a good international health insurance policy should cover all your immediate healthcare needs, while giving you peace of mind that – should you be involved in an accident, or diagnosed with a life-threatening illness like cancer – you will be able to get the treatment you need.

It should give you the flexibility to choose the level of cover you want. Whether you want a basic plan to cover your essential costs, or comprehensive cover for a wide range of treatments, your provider should be able to offer you the right level of cover.

You should also be able to add additional cover to your policy, such as maternity cover or mental health services.

Who are the best international health insurance companies?

The best international health insurance provider for you will be the one who offers everything you need at the best price. When searching for the best international health insurance company, look for a company that combines:

Local expertise

Does your health insurance provider have the expertise in your new home country’s local insurance industry and healthcare system?

Personal service

Can you be sure you’ll get to speak to a real person, either to seek advice or to make a claim?

Clear policy wording

Does your provider provide a full and easy-to-understand breakdown of their services, and can you be sure you’ll be covered for everything you need?

How does William Russell compare?

William Russell offers a network of 40,000 hand-picked hospitals and clinics worldwide ready to support our expatriate customers. We’re proud to have a high star rating based on customer feedback provided through independent reviewer Feefo.

What factors drive the cost of international health insurance?

The cost of international health insurance is driven by the cost of global healthcare – which is increasing. We have written about rising healthcare costs in the past, but it bears repeating here.

Between 2000 and 2019, the average cost per person for healthcare in the United States increased by 140%, from US$4,543.44 in 2000 to US$10,921.01 per annum in 2020.

The country with the largest percentage increase in health expenditure per person was Armenia, where the cost of healthcare has increased by 1,349% since the start of the millennium.

Compare top 10 countries by largest absolute change in health expenditure per capita 2000-2019 (US$)

Country 2000 2019 Absolute change Percentage change
USA US$4,543.44 US$10,921.01 +US$6,377.57 +140%
Switzerland US$3,362.20 US$8,532.50 +US$5,170.30 +154%
Norway US$2,857.77 US$7,217.39 +US$4,359.62 +153%
Ireland US$1,795.64 US$6,010.07 +US$4,214.43 +235%
Sweden US$2,173.66 US$6,222.66 +US$4,049.00 +186%
Germany US$2,692.24 US$6,738.67 +US$4,046.43 +150%
Netherlands US$2,466.85 US$6,248.15 +US$3,781.30 +153%
Denmark US$2,327.76 US$6,015.46 +US$3,687.70 +158%
Belgium US$2,226.14 US$5,846.90 +US$3,620.76 +163%
Luxembourg US$3,287.65 US$6,756.88 +US$3,469.23 +106%

Source: Our World In Data

Key reason for price increase cost of global healthcare

Government healthcare schemes – even those introduced before the COVID-19 pandemic – are a key reason for this price increase. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2017, the five key factors pushing up government healthcare costs are:

  • Service price and intensity
  • Population growth
  • Population aging
  • Disease prevalence or incidence
  • Medical service and utilisation

Service price and intensity, which underpins the price of pharmaceutical drugs, technology and treatments, makes up over 50% of the total increase in price.

Healthcare spending

And where does this money go? According to the US Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, healthcare spending can be broken down into 10 categories:

Service type Percentage share of costs
Hospital care 31%
Physician and clinical services 20%
Retail prescription drugs 8%
Other health, residential and personal care services 5%
Nursing care facilities and continuing care retirement communities 5%
Dental services 3%
Home health care 3%
Other professional services 3%
Other non-durable medical products 2%
Durable medical equipment 1%

To put it simply, as healthcare becomes better, the cost increases too.

And, as the price of international healthcare goes up, so too will the cost of your health insurance policy.

Your cover will also depend on a number of factors, including:

  • The type of policy you take out – basic policies are cheaper, while comprehensive policies are more expensive
  • The number of optional add-ons you include
  • Your age, circumstances and current health
  • Your required area of cover – some areas are considered higher risk than others, and some areas will not be covered at all by international health insurance policies
  • Your excess

Read more about the cost of international health insurance.

How do I take out an international health insurance policy?

Taking out an international health insurance policy should be straightforward.

  • get an initial quote online
  • make sure you can see and select all the options you require
  • read through the policy wording carefully to make sure you’re getting everything you need

Pay particular attention to:

  • the provider’s policies on existing conditions
  • your area/s of cover
  • any exclusions (things your insurance won’t cover)

Also look at the level of excess – the amount you pay towards a claim – and see what the options are for choosing an excess that suits you.

Once you’ve successfully applied for a plan, all that’s left to do then is relax and enjoy the peace of mind that comes with having international health insurance.

Why choose
William Russell?

At William Russell, we have over 30 years of helping expatriates settle into their new lives overseas by providing world-class international health insurance.

Any time you need us

You can call our 24/7 emergency medical helpline

Choose your hospital

You're free to choose which hospital you visit for treatment

Worldwide network

We have a worldwide network of hospitals and doctors to call upon

Ready to get started? Get an online quote now