It is vital to remember that expats are considering an international health insurance plan; there are several key factors they should look for to ensure they get comprehensive coverage that meets their specific needs.
Expats should consider some factors when evaluating international health insurance plans:
Medical Network: It is a good idea to ensure the global insurance provider has a large medical network that you can use in case of a medical claim, especially at hospitals. Note that the more remote or undeveloped the country, the lower the number of hospitals in your international insurer’s network. A global insurer won’t add just any hospital into their network as they have to make sure the hospital has a decent level of care and the facility is willing to contract with an insurer. Sometimes, a hospital requests cash payment instead of dealing with an insurer.
Basic or Comprehensive: This is not an easy decision, but the better the coverage, the more you will have to pay. It is just that simple.
Insurance Company Reputation: All insurers and providers have some issues and unhappy customers, but talk to an expat insurance expert broker such as our firm and we can talk about the capabilities and reputation of the various insurers we work with. Take ratings sites with a grain of salt as well.
Exclusions: Every health plan, even for expats, has exclusions and limitations. Carefully review the policy terms to understand what is not covered. Some policies may exclude certain activities or sports, certain medical conditions, or waiting periods for specific treatments.
Coverage Area: Expats should check that the insurance plan covers the countries they intend to live or travel to. Some plans may have regional restrictions, while others offer worldwide coverage, excluding or including the home country. Global Nomads should consider if they want to be covered globally, excluding the USA or including the USA. Including the USA will increase your premium from 20% to 50%, depending on your nationality.
Medical Coverage: The plan should cover various medical services, including hospitalization, outpatient care, emergency services, prescription drugs, and specialist consultations.
Pre-existing Conditions: Global health policies can sometimes cover some chronic and pre-existing medical conditions, but it depends on the condition, the underwriters and the medical history and potential for claims. Note that medical underwriting is required for individual plans, and it is possible that you could be declined, offered a premium loading or have medical exclusion for the condition. You should consider keeping an existing expat health plan if it is presently covering your pre-existing medical conditions. Often, a group expat health plan can cover pre-existing medical conditions.
Emergency Evacuation and Repatriation: An excellent international health insurance plan should include coverage for emergency medical evacuation to the nearest suitable medical facility and repatriation to the home country if necessary.
Inpatient and Outpatient Care: Ensure that the plan covers both inpatient (hospitalization) coverage and outpatient care (doctor’s visits, diagnostic tests, etc.) to cater to different medical needs.
Mental Health Coverage: Mental health support is essential, so expats should verify that the insurance plan includes coverage for mental health services, therapy, and counselling. Maintaining your mental health abroad can be challenging, so make sure your international health plan consists of this coverage.
Maternity Coverage: For expats planning to start a family, maternity coverage is crucial. Check whether the plan covers prenatal care, childbirth, and postnatal care. Most expat health plans will have a ten or 12-month waiting period for maternity, which can’t be waived unless you are part of a larger group insurance plan.
Insurer Reviews and Reputation: Research the insurance provider’s reputation and read reviews from other expats who have used their services to gauge customer satisfaction. Note that all insurers will have some customer concerns and complaints, as no company is perfect, and some customers have unrealistic expectations. Also, the local outlet of an insurer may have more complaints than their separate and distinct international plans. Many expats prefer to work with a well-respected and known insurer who will be there for the long haul.
Dental and Vision Coverage: Some plans may offer optional add-ons for dental coverage and vision coverage, which can be beneficial for those who require such services. If you are wanting to keep your costs down, consider not taking this benefit.
Direct or Buy Via Broker: Some people don’t realize that you can buy international health insurance online or offline through a brokerage website like ours at no extra cost, and premiums and coverage are still direct with the insurance company. We often secure lower rates to help clients buy the right coverage and are independent advocates before and after they secure their policies.
Policy Maximum and Deductible: Review the policy’s maximum coverage limit and the deductible (the amount the insured must pay out of pocket before the insurance kicks in). Choose a plan with reasonable limits and deductibles that suit your budget. The larger the deductible, the lower the premium, so deductibles can be a great way to reduce your global healthcare premiums by incurring more upfront risk.
Network of Hospitals and Healthcare Providers: Check if the insurance provider has a network of hospitals and healthcare professionals in the countries of your choice. This can make it easier to access medical services and may offer direct billing options.
Exclusions and Limitations: Carefully review the policy’s exclusions and limitations to understand what is not covered. Some policies may exclude certain activities or sports, certain medical conditions, or waiting periods for specific treatments. The higher the number of exclusions, the lower the cost in general. Expats should read the fine print of these international schemes.
Customer Service and Support: Good customer service is essential, especially when dealing with medical emergencies. Look for an insurance provider with a reputation for excellent customer support and a 24/7 helpline. The support and advocacy of international insurance brokerage, such as ours, is also vital as we have been able to resolve customer concerns numerous times, including helping with renewals and claims.
Renewability and Portability: Check if the plan is renewable and allows for seamless transitions when moving to different countries or changing residence. Most expat health plans are not renewable if you move back to your home country or stay there for more than 180 days.
Expat Plan Price and Value: While price is a factor, don’t base your decision solely on the cheapest option. Consider the overall value the plan provides in terms of coverage, benefits, and support. While it can be very tempting to get the cheapest plan in the market, this is rarely a good idea. There are lots of ways you can decrease your expat health insurance premiums, such as increasing a deductible or paying your premium annually instead of monthly.
Final Thoughts for International Citizens
Overall, choosing the right international health insurance plan for expats requires careful consideration of the coverage offered, the insurer’s reputation, and how well it aligns with the individual’s specific needs and circumstances. It’s essential to compare different plans and seek advice from insurance experts to make an informed decision. We like to think that our website and owner, TFG Global Insurance Solutions Ltd., has the experience, knowledge and support that most expatriates and global nomads require when buying international healthcare policies.