Insurance for American Expatriates

Medical Crisis Planning for Expatriates

An expatriate is someone who is living abroad in a different country to where they come from. People move all over the world for many different reasons, including moves for retiring abroad, moving because of a new job or work relocation or moves for family reasons.

When you are living abroad, you never know when an emergency situation might happen, including a medical crisis. It can be tricky to know exactly what to do in these situations and how to handle them in your own country, but even more so in another country where you are living as an expat.

There will be plenty of steps you can take to help you in the event of a medical crisis. To help guide you, we will share in this article 5 top tips for what expats should do in the event of a medical crisis.

1- Have your global health insurance provider contacts available

Nobody is really ready for a medical crisis or claims when living abroad, but accidents and illnesses do happen even to the youngest and most healthy among us. It is vital that you have all your health insurance provider details with you when you move abroad – this will usually be in the form of a health insurance contact card with 24/7 emergency number and email.

Most expat health insurance providers will allow you to phone collect and may even include a toll-free number. You should have your policy number and name as noted in your card available to present to the doctor, clinic or hospital if you need to claim. You will also need to have someone contact the health insurer assistance line to pre-certify if required, and provide assistance or a guarantee of payment. Note that some hospitals in some developing countries may not want to work with your international insurance provider and may require that you pay for any claims and submit them to the insurer, especially if it is a small claim or the provider is not in the medical network of your insurance provider.

Note that involving the insurer as soon as is reasonably possible may be part of your policy terms, but is also beneficial as the insurance company can provide:

  • Second opinion advice
  • Prep for a potential medical evacuation
  • Suggest a more appropriate procedure or hospital
  • Reimburse faster or give a guarantee of payment to the facility
  • Confirm that you are covered and give everyone peace of mind

2- Do your research in advance and be prepared before you move

The first step is to do as much research as possible in advance of your expat move. This is very important as it will help you to be as prepared as possible for any medical crisis situation that could come your way.

It is also a good idea to try to do some research on the healthcare system in the new country that you are moving to. This will help you to be prepared and know more about the options available to you, should you require medical treatment abroad.

For example, a big help in a medical crisis can be having access to telemedicine. Telemedicine services offer chat and video conferencing options for expats.

Especially since the COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine services are becoming more and more popular. Telemedicine services allow for easy access for customers to medical advice, without the physical need of having to go to a doctor’s office.

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3- Have your medical history available

Another very important step to remember is your medical history. By having your medical history records ready for your expat move abroad, this can be a big help in the event of a medical crisis.

If you are moving to a country where you are not as familiar with the local language, then you might want to consider having your medical records available in the local language too. That way, local healthcare professionals in your new country will be able to understand your medical history.

This could make all the difference for you in a medical crisis situation. For example, if you were to have an allergic reaction while abroad and faced a serious medical situation, having this information will be very helpful for the doctors who end up treating you.

The doctors will be able to more easily identify what the issue could of been that led to you having an allergic reaction and can then provide the right treatment for you.

Telehealth for Expatriates

4- Keep a list of emergency contacts

Another top tip is to write down a list of your emergency contacts. Make a note of a list of names, telephone numbers and addresses of the people that you would like to use as your emergency contacts.

If you are able to keep this list in a safe place, such as your wallet or in a safe in your home, this will be very beneficial during a medical crisis. If you were to become seriously ill or be in need of urgent medical attention, it will be a lot easier to notify your loved ones if you have a list of emergency contacts in place. Failing to have a list like this in place can be very risky in the event of a medical crisis.
For example, if a medical crisis were to happen to you in a country abroad and you don’t have a list of emergency contacts in place, it could be very difficult to notify your closest family and friends to let them know.

Telemedicine for Expatriates

5- Consider your health insurance needs

When you move abroad, you never know when an emergency medical crisis situation may occur. This is where having an international health insurance plan is so important.

Expat health insurance is meant for those who are living abroad, in another country to where they come from. You can buy expat health insurance either just for yourself or for yourself and your family.

By having health insurance in place, you will be covered in the event of a medical crisis. Some health insurance companies even provide coverage for medical evacuation in the event of an emergency.

This includes transport to a medical facility, repatriation home after a serious incident and global crisis response services in the event of a travel or security risk.

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6- Benefits of having international health insurance

Another one of the many benefits that come with having health insurance is that you can receive access to healthcare facilities as a private patient. This means you won’t strictly need to rely on any public healthcare options for treatment.

You’ll receive the option of choosing which doctor or medical facility you go with. In a lot of countries, you may also select treatment by a doctor that speaks the same language as you do.

Having an international health insurance plan can be especially helpful for you when you are faced with paying an expensive medical bill. Your health insurance provider will cover the cost of any healthcare bills that you may incur while abroad. Healthcare bills can be very expensive, especially if you have a medical crisis abroad, such as emergency surgery.

If you decide not to get international health insurance, it is a very risky decision. If you face a medical emergency abroad, you may not be able to get the right treatment you need. You could also be landed with paying out of pocket for any immediate hospitalisation, which can lead to having to pay for very expensive medical bills.

To understand more about the benefits of having international health insurance, please read our blog article here.