When you live abroad you are often faced with the following choice: Do I go on the domestic government public health plan OR do I purchase global medical coverage? Some countries will allow you to choose while others mandate or automatically cover you under the state plan. In some Gulf State countries such as the UAE, you have to be covered by a locally admitted insurer in order to obtain and retain your work visa. In countries such as Canada, expats are often enrolled in the provincial medical system after a waiting period of 3 to more than 12 months and in the interim most will opt for a travel medical insurance plan. The key with domestic plans is that they almost always only cover you in that country. Also, some domestic plans often only provide public or basic medical coverage and support. That is why expats around the world often contact Expat Financial to obtain a global medical quote.
However, if you are an expatriate, you usually require global medical coverage that moves with you and covers you locally, regionally and globally – especially back home. You may have a trailing spouse and child back home who you need to cover or a dependent attending university abroad – these people can’t be covered by a government plan.
Access to Private Care?
Domestic government health plans usually only provide access to public hospitals and doctors. This can mean access to more basic and restrictive medical facilities. Often domestic medical systems will restrict access to medical care and expats will be faced with long waiting lists to see specialists, obtain medical tests and receive surgical care. In Canada, the waiting lists can range from months to years to obtain medical treatment. Emergency care is usually received quickly in public hospitals. However, many expats want to be able to seek medical treatment in private hospitals and clinics.
Flexibility of Expat Plans
When you are an expat on a government health plan, there is no flexibility in your medical coverage – you get the same medical care that all domestic nationals are provided. Whereas with a private expat health plan, you can pick and choose what benefits are provided and as long as you have a relatively clean medical history, most pre-existing medical conditions should be able to be covered. You can even add dental and vision coverage, which is almost never provided by government run systems.
Portability of Coverage – A problem for Government Run Plans
As noted above, government run medical plans cover you only in your home country. These public health plans are not portable whereas expats are. So when you move to a new destination you will not be able to take the government health plan with you whereas the global medical plan is portable to almost all nations around the world. A global plan can also cover you when you travel abroad for business or pleasure. This is especially important for expat employers with globally mobile employees.
Government Cut Backs
Economic problems around the developed and developing world means that health budgets are being slashed and services and coverage are being curtailed. Such access and budget cut-backs can seriously impact an expat’s ability to access medical care.
US Affordable Care Act
If you are an expat in the USA and are paying taxes, it will probably mean that you will need to get a domestic health plan in the USA that is part of the Obama Care or Affordable Care Act (ACA), especially if you are not covered by your employer. If you do not have coverage under the ACA, you may be faced with tax fines that can really add up. Talk to your tax or legal adviser.
For Expats Living Abroad – The Choice is Clear
For global citizens, it is critical that you contact Expat Financial to discuss your global medical insurance requirements and discuss the advantages of having a health plan that can cover you and your family globally and address the many concerns you may have with government medical insurance. The same problems we have talked about above also often extend to domestic health plans. We offer some excellent global medical plans for expatriates that can provide global access to healthcare and not leave you at the mercy of government run health coverage. Our most popular individual plans are from Cigna & IMG, which provide you the ability to obtain a quote and apply online. If you are an HR manager, please contact us for a group plan to cover your mobile expat population.