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Malawi: How To Secure Health Insurance As An Expat (or Local)

Malawi: How To Secure Health Insurance As An Expat (or Local)

avatar - Lee Doran

Lee Doran

Underwriting Manager

Known as the ‘warm heart of Africa’ and full of rich traditions and culture, Malawi continues to attract many expats who call this landlocked country home. Unfortunately, public healthcare is not of a high standard, and private healthcare can become extremely expensive if you need a lot of treatment.

If you’re planning to live in Malawi (or already do), you may want to consider international health insurance. This guide will walk you through how to get health insurance in Malawi, what makes William Russell stand out as an insurance provider in Malawi, and what you should know about the Malawian healthcare system.

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Health insurance in Malawi: How to get it

Expats can access public healthcare in Malawi through the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). Depending on the treatment, the NHIS is either free or charges affordable out-of-pocket fees. However, the public healthcare system in Malawi offers limited services and has a shortage of doctors and nurses. Paying for health insurance is commonplace amongst expats and locals when they want to receive better care through the private healthcare facilities in Malawi. 

To find an international medical insurance policy, you have two options. Firstly, you may work with a broker who will compare multiple insurance providers to find the right deal. You can find brokers in Malawi, or you can use one online.

Alternatively, you can get a quote straight from the insurance provider themselves. For example, William Russell can provide you with a quote in just a couple of minutes. 

Health insurance in Malawi with William Russell: How we work

Our expertise is providing coverage for expats and locals living in Malawi. We’ve been an international health insurance provider since 1992 and focus exclusively on international medical, income protection, and life insurance. Our members live all across the globe, some of whom have been with us for decades. 

When it comes to health insurance, the principle is much the same, no matter your medical insurance policy. You pay a monthly premium and submit a claim if you need medical care while in Malawi.

Unlike other insurers, we offer a wide variety of options in our health insurance plans. We have four levels of cover — Bronze, Silver, SilverLite, and Gold (Bronze is our most affordable plan, and Gold provides the most coverage).

All our plans cover hospital treatment, ambulances (including an air ambulance if required), diagnostics, cancer treatment, emergency medical evacuation, repatriation, and more.

Our more premium plans include out-patient care (including doctor visits), maternity care, and more comprehensive dental care

You can get this coverage in a total of 6 regional areas that we call “zones.”

Zone 1 Zone 2 Zone 4 Zone 5
Worldwide cover, with restricted cover in the USA Full cover in most countries, with restricted cover where private healthcare is expensive but no cover in the USA Full cover in Africa & Indian Subcontinent, with restricted cover elsewhere but no cover in the USA Full cover in Africa (except South Africa) & Indian Subcontinent, with restricted cover elsewhere but no cover in the USA

With William Russell, you can fine-tune your coverage – whether you’re an expat or a local living in Malawi, you can choose Zone 1, 2, 4, or 5. If you won’t make use of worldwide cover, you can choose to have private healthcare coverage in Africa only. This means you can explore the continent without worrying about your medical insurance in Africa. 

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How our medical claims process works

There are three categories of claims on our plans: 

  1. In-patient or day-patient admissions. This involves planned hospital stays for procedures. In these cases, you obtain pre-authorisation from us. We’ll then confirm whether the procedure is covered in your plan and arrange for the direct payment of costs with the medical facility (minus any excess or deductibles).
  2. Out-patient treatment refers to planned medical procedures that don’t require hospitalisation. You pay for the medical expenses and provide William Russell with a receipt or invoice to receive reimbursement. 
  3. Medical evacuation. If you have a limb-threatening or life-threatening condition and need urgent hospital treatment that isn’t available locally, we’ll arrange for your emergency evacuation to the nearest suitable location.
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What our medical evacuation process in Malawi looks like

When you’re living in a low to middle-income country like Malawi, with large rural areas, a challenged health sector, and healthcare inequalities, you’ll want to know if your international health insurance covers you for medical evacuation. At William Russell, we include medical evacuation in all of our plans.

If you need emergency health assistance, simply let us know via our emergency medical helpline – available 24/7. We’ll investigate immediately, and our team will assess whether you need an evacuation. 

If you do, we’ll take it from there. If it’s life-threatening or limb-threatening, we’ll get you to the nearest medical centre that can give you the right treatment — we’ll use an air ambulance and cross borders if necessary. 

Want to know more about medical evacuation?
Learn more about medevac or repatriation insurance

Why choose William Russell?

There are a lot of insurance providers out there – so why choose William Russell? 

We stand out in quite a few ways: 

  • Simple claims process – When you make a claim, you can quickly submit details on an online portal – your claims manager will take care of the rest. We aim to assess claims within 10 days. If you’re making an in-patient claim, we pre-authorise and pre-confirm it first so we can pay the hospital directly.
  • Flexible coverage areas You’ll have four different plans and four different coverage areas to choose from. This means you don’t have to take out multiple medical insurance policies if you expect to spend time in other African countries or travel back to your homeland from time to time (coverage in the US is limited).
  • Dedicated team for complex claims We have claims managers who specialise in cancer, pregnancy, and emergency claims. Our experts will proactively keep in touch with you throughout the process to make your life easier during important health times. 
  • 24/7 emergency line If you become sick or injured, we’re just a phone call away. We’re available 24/7 in emergencies to help you get the right medical care you need. 
  • Medical evacuation on all plans Providing a comprehensive evacuation benefit is crucial to give you the trust and confidence you need to thrive in Malawi. 
  • Personal customer service As a specialist firm, we don’t use call centres, so you won’t have to repeat your story repeatedly to different call handlers.
  • Life insurance and income protection  With William Russell, you’ll also have the possibility to choose additional insurance plans wherever you’re based. We offer life insurance and income protection policies.
  • Plans insured by Allianz – We’re a family-run insurance provider. However, an insurer from the Allianz Group has been insuring all of our plans since 2002. This gives our members the confidence of a big name while they enjoy the excellent customer service and specialised expertise of William Russell.
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Who is William Russell best for? 

We specialise in international health insurance, which means we are a good fit for those looking to live in Malawi for at least six months or more. For stays shorter than 6 months, you may want to consider getting travel insurance

William Russell members in Malawi include expats who work in Malawi, retirees, volunteers helping in rural communities, and Malawian citizens. We also offer insurance for businesses with employees in Malawi. 

An international health insurance policy with William Russell can also be a great fit if you plan to travel frequently. Whether you’ll be limiting your journeys within Africa or intend to travel more extensively, you can find a health policy that fits your lifestyle with William Russell.

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Malawi healthcare system: All you need to know

Public healthcare facilities make up approximately 52% of all medical centres in Malawi. The rest are private health centres or community clinics run by the Christian Health Association of Malawi (CHAM).

The government of Malawi set up a universal healthcare system through its Ministry of Health. There are four different levels of care in Malawi’s public healthcare, based on a referral system. The community and primary health care levels meet basic health needs. The secondary and tertiary levels provide in-patient and out-patient care, general practitioner visits, and hospitals with specialised departments, doctors, and surgeons.

As a low-income country with a population of 18 million, Malawi doesn’t have enough doctors or nurses to meet the country’s healthcare demands. This means that patients with health needs face long wait times and crowded hospitals. You may also find that medical equipment in the country needs updating.

Malawi also has a culture of using traditional healers and herbal medicine, most commonly practised in rural communities, which is why many will prefer to use these resources before travelling further afield for care. Many rural residents need to travel significant distances to get medical care.

There are some excellent private medical facilities in the bigger urban areas of Malawi. Most private doctors have trained extensively abroad, and the standard of facilities in private hospitals is good. Malawi’s private hospitals include: 

  • Mwaiwathu Private Hospital, located in Blantyre, Malawi’s second-largest city
  • Blantyre Adventist Hospital, in Blantyre
  • Masm MediClinic, in Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital city
  • ABC Clinic, in Lilongwe
  • Shifa International Hospital, in Lilongwe
  • Montfort Hospital, in Nchalo, a town in southern Malawi

Wherever you decide to live in Malawi, it can be worth ensuring you have a clear idea of where your nearest medical facility is and how to get there.

Not all private health insurance providers are alike
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Staying healthy in Malawi: 3 tips

Here are a few tips on staying healthy in Malawi so you can prevent your need for healthcare:

  1. Take precautions to prevent mosquito bites, as malaria is a significant health risk in Malawi. This includes using mosquito repellent, wearing long sleeves and pants, and sleeping under a mosquito net. Having a healthy supply of malaria medication is vital if you’re living in Malawi.
  2. Drink only bottled or boiled water, and avoid tap water, ice cubes, and fountain drinks. Malawi has faced a recent cholera outbreak, which can affect drinking water. Also, be cautious about consuming raw fruits and vegetables that may have come in contact with contaminated water. 
  3. Question the credentials of medical clinics. Some doctors may exaggerate their ability to deal with illnesses. Malawians also rely on traditional healthcare and herbal medicine, which may not be effective. 
Want to know more about living in Malawi?
Check out our full guide on moving to Malawi as an expat


All Malawian citizens can use public healthcare for no charge, and expats can use it for a nominal fee (depending on the treatment required). However, the standards of care and the range of treatment offered are underdeveloped. 

The UK and USA governments recommend getting international medical insurance if you plan on spending time in Malawi.

Though it has improved in the last few years, Malawi’s public healthcare system is poor compared to other African countries. There are not enough doctors or nurses to meet the country’s healthcare needs and equipment may be lacking in the publicly run healthcare system. 

Private healthcare in Malawi provides better quality with highly trained medical staff and higher quality facilities.

Malawi has a Universal Health Coverage index (meaning how much of the population has accessible medical care) of 69.68%. 

However, with most Malawians living rurally, the range of health coverage could be better. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that countries have 4.45 health workers per 1,000 people. Malawi has only 0.019 physicians and 0.283 nurses/midwives per 1000 people.

The Centre of Disease Control (CDC) recommends the following vaccinations before travelling to Malawi:

  • Routine vaccinations, such as measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTaP), varicella (chickenpox), polio, influenza, and COVID-19
  • Hepatitis A
  • Typhoid
  • Hepatitis B 
  • Rabies 

Choose William Russell for your international health insurance in Malawi

Malawi is an incredible country full of rich culture, traditions, and, most importantly, warm people. However, public healthcare services are underdeveloped and far behind Western standards. While private healthcare in Malawi is of a high standard, it can be extremely expensive. 

Taking out an international health insurance policy with William Russell will give you the peace of mind you need to get the most out of your life in Malawi. 

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