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Why do I need international health insurance abroad?

If you’re thinking of moving abroad, international health insurance is a must-have. But why is it essential? Here we’ll break down everything you need to know about health insurance abroad, including 10 main reasons to choose it for yourself and your family.

Why do you need international health insurance when you move abroad?

Starting a new life overseas can be deeply rewarding, but is not without its challenges. With international health insurance, you can knowing you and your family will be covered no matter what life throws at you.

If you don’t have the right health insurance abroad, the cost of medical treatment abroad can be enormously expensive: for example, according to the Association of British Insurers, US$124,000 bill for treating a fractured spine in Thailand or US$74,000 for a hospital stay following a road accident in Spain. From dental appointments to broken bones, and even bigger things such as cancer and COVID-19, there is always a risk that you and your family will experience a health crisis while living abroad – which is why it pays to be prepared.

Let’s look at other reasons why you need international health insurance abroad in more detail below.

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1/ International health insurance can cover you for the things public healthcare doesn’t

Depending on which country you relocate to, you may or may not be entitled to public healthcare. When you’re living overseas and need healthcare, distress can be amplified by many factors, including:

  • Access — Not being able to access healthcare because you’re not a citizen or because you can’t afford it
  • Infrastructure — Your country of residence lacking the infrastructure to treat you
  • Communication — Not being able to communicate properly with medical staff due to language or cultural differences
  • Delays — Long waiting times to access services.

Your entitlement may depend on factors such as your residency or citizenship status, your tax status and the length of your stay, while some countries, such as the USA, do not offer public healthcare at all. But even if you are entitled, remember public healthcare can usually only go so far – if you want coverage for things such as major illnesses, accident and emergency care, maternity care, dentistry, clinical services and so on, you may find it easier accessing and claiming for these services with an international health insurance policy.

2/ International health insurance helps you avoid surprise costs

A general rule of life is that ‘anything can happen, and this applies especially to expats. Whether it’s an accident or the sudden onset of a major illness, you never know when you may need access to healthcare while living abroad. And, if you’re not insured, you may find yourself walking away from hospital with a sizeable bill. It’s a global lottery as to how much a medical emergency could set you back if paying out of your own pocket. For some, having a medical emergency abroad without the right cover could mean having to dip into your life savings – or having to sell your family home. To give you an idea on costs, here are some ballpark figures for common treatments carried out privately:

Treatment TypeSum PaidCountry
DentalUS$8,336.00Indonesia
DiabetesUS$6,806.91Thailand
DiabetesUS$6,541.26Thailand
DiabetesUS$5,298.00Hong Kong
DiabetesUS$5,135.00Japan
DentalUS$3,839.00India & Indonesia
DiabetesUS$3,248.00Japan
DentalUS$2,945.11France
DentalUS$2,876.95Israel
DentalUS$2,822.47United Kingdom

Based on William Russell own data from 2019-2020.

Could you and your family afford these surprise medical costs? With an international health insurance policy, you won’t have to answer that question, instead enjoying total peace of mind knowing you’re covered for any eventuality.

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3/ International health insurance can cover you in multiple regions or countries

As an expatriate, it’s likely you’ll travel a lot, whether to different regions of the country you live, or other nearby countries. When you cross regional, state or national borders, your healthcare entitlements may change – but, with international health insurance protecting you, you will still be covered so long as you stay within your designated area of cover. This makes it easier, more cost effective and altogether more fun to travel around your new region and enjoy everything it has to offer.

4/ International health insurance ensures you get priority treatment at world-class facilities

The fact of the matter is that some countries provide better healthcare than others. So, one of the biggest challenges when moving abroad is understanding the state of local healthcare in your country or region. If you find yourself living in an area where public healthcare is not up to scratch, your international healthcare insurance provider will be able to connect you to private hospitals and clinics that provide you with the level of healthcare you expect. At William Russell, for instance, we have a worldwide network of over 40,000 hand-picked hospitals and clinics.

Where is the best healthcare in the world?
Check the list of countries here!

5/ International health insurance can provide you with a medical evacuation (Medevac), if you need one

If you find yourself unable to access the standard of healthcare you require in your region, you may require a medical evacuation (Medevac). A Medevac will transport you to a nearby hospital or clinic within your area of cover, or else to your home country, to receive care. William Russell’s Bronze, Silver and Gold policies include Medevac cover as standard, and you can also claim expenses for one other traveller to accompany you on your trip.

6/ International health insurance can help cover the cost of medications and prescriptions

Whether you require medication for an ongoing condition, or if you need treatment for an illness, the cost of drugs can vary by region and according to your condition – and may be extremely expensive depending on the type of drug required. With international health insurance, you have the flexibility to include medications within your coverage, so if you find yourself needing drugs or repeat prescriptions, you can depend on your policy to cover some (or sometimes, all) of the costs of your medication.

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7/ International health insurance can be tailored to your needs

Perhaps you have previous conditions or require higher levels of coverage for certain conditions. Perhaps you even want coverage for optional treatments such as mental health. With international health insurance, you have the ability to shape your policy the way you like. This means having the ability to choose the level of coverage you require and optional add-ons.

8/ International health insurance keeps you connected to healthcare experts

Moving abroad, you may find it difficult to access high-quality, independent medical advice. At William Russell, we understand that this uncertainty can create undue stress, which is why we provide a 24/7 helpline. Our dedicated account managers are the country experts who will be happy to provide you with information regarding your rights as an expat, your treatment options and the services you are entitled to through your policy. When it comes time to make a claim, your personal account manager will work closely with you to ensure you always get the best treatment at the right price.

9/ With international health insurance, you’re in control

Your international health insurance policy should provide the protection you need at a price that suits you – nothing more, nothing less. That’s why, as well as choosing the right level of cover to meet your needs and budget, you have the choice to set your excess. A higher excess means lower premiums, but will mean a higher up-front cost when it comes to paying for treatment.

10/ International health insurance isn’t your only option

With 30 years’ experience providing coverage for expats in over 180 countries, William Russell offers much more than international health insurance. Our international life insurance policy is tailor-made for expatriates and provides up to US$2 million of coverage for bereaved relatives, while our international income protection insurance ensures that, should you find yourself unable to work due to injury or illness, your family won’t be left without an income. So, whatever life may throw at you while living overseas, you can rest safe in the knowledge that you’re protected no matter what.

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