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Choosing between a local or global health insurance plan as an expat

Why you should purchase a global over a local health plan if you are an expatriate

Expatriates who are moving overseas will often opt into purchasing a local health plan from the government or a private insurer. Some countries, regardless of your own coverage, may require you to purchase the local coverage care, even if inadequate for your needs. Most local plans will be inexpensive and some can potentially be quite good. However, if you are moving overseas there are five reasons why we recommend expats to purchase a global health policy:

Portability

As an expatriate living abroad, opting into a local health plan may limit your portability and your access to medical care in cases of relocation. If there is a possibility of you moving to a new destination, or if you are not consistently in one primary country, you will want to have access to a health care plan that provides you with the portability that you require. Another benefit of obtaining a global health insurance plan is that it may also include coverage for business travel and travelling for pleasure. Global health insurance plans are especially important for expat employers that employ mobile employees globally.

Local health plans may be deficient

Many expatriates find that local health care plans are not sufficient for their standards. One benefit that has proven to be important for expats is the ability to get medical care with a large network of hospitals and clinics. Many local plans will have a small network, in which you have to receive your care. Global health care plans tend to have a much larger network, as well as the ability to access medical care from outside network hospitals with approval from the insurer.

Local health facilities may be substandard and not up to western standards

The quality of medical care and facility capabilities vary greatly from one country to another, and in some countries, the standards of medical facilities may be much lower than those in Western countries. If you are an expat located in a second or third world country, the medical standards set in place may not be up to the standards in which you are accustomed to. Medical care that is not up to your usual standards may be passable for check-ups and basic care, but will not be adequate for any procedures that require a specialist or any form of intensive care. However, it is not only in third world countries that you will want to consider a global health plan. Even in developed countries, having a global health plan in place will help in a time of emergency, and explain how to deal with medical emergency coverage when times of need require it. It will also have the added benefit of providing you and your family with an accurate direction and alleviate panic at all times.

Local plans won’t cover you for treatment outside of that country

The difficulty with local plans is that once you have left the country, your local plan may be cancelled out. While being an expat often encompasses a certain amount of international travel, you will want to ensure that you are covered upon leaving your main destination. Another difficulty that comes along with local health care coverage is if you do decide to relocate, there may be a lapse in coverage or necessary waiting periods for coverage between the two regions. This may become detrimental in your protection if you are travelling in high-risk zones.

You may need or want to seek treatment back home or regionally

Although local health plans may be tempting for expatriates, local health plans are not designed for expats, but in reality, are designed for local natives. If you are wanting to obtain medical coverage back in your home country, you will no longer be covered under your local health care plan. You may also require medical evacuation coverage in cases that local hospitals are not able to treat you adequately. Evacuation coverage is a crucial feature of any expatriate insurance plan.

Expats are often portable, so it is vital that you have a global health policy that will cover you if you move from one country to another. It is important to note that most expat health providers are not able to renew their coverage should you move back to your home country or spend more than 6 months in your country of citizenship. It is important that you check your requirements and fine print when you apply online for a global health plan.

Expat Financial offers a variety of international insurance health insurance plans on a group or individual basis. To maximize your expat experience and avoid unforeseen risks and costs, please contact us today to discuss your international insurance needs and requirements. Toll-free number: 1-800-232-9415 or email info@tfgglobal.com

A financial checklist is important for expats moving abroad

Make a Financial Checklist if You Are Moving Abroad!

Financial planning is often considered confusing, frustrating and time-consuming, especially for expatriates who are busy enough living and working abroad. However, don’t let it frighten you off. Financial planning aims to help take control of your life and budget, and achieve your financial goals. This is very important for expats living and working overseas. In order to have a clear picture of what you want, it is recommended that you create a simple financial checklist before moving abroad.

Do you want to own a home or rent an apartment?

Expatriates working overseas will have the chance to own a larger amount of disposable income. A clear financial goal is important if you want to make the most of your money. For expatriates aiming to purchase home overseas, it is suggested to look for neighbourhoods with appropriate community services and excellent schools. This will be attractive for future resale value. If you decided to rent an apartment, make sure to check the entire room before signing the lease contract. Rental agreements will vary, you are responsible to read carefully before signing.

Do you have emergency savings?

Any unexpected events or risks could hurt your financial health. Financial professionals suggest holding at least 3-6 months of income as emergency savings. This is especially important for expatriates living overseas in the event of any financial emergencies. It is recommended to establish a monthly budget to cover day-to-day expenses, protecting cash account being invested or overspending.

Do you have a retirement plan?

If you have a retirement plan at hand, you will be clear when making major decisions such as what lifestyle you can afford, how much to save and where you will retire. The earlier you get the retirement plan ready, the more comfortable retirement. A lot of factors will help to design your retirement plan: investment returns, cash flow, country-specific benefits, etc. You should talk to an expat investment expert who may be able to guide you in the right investment plans and investments. Generally, the closer you are to retirement the less risk you may want to take. Expats may want to think about if your investment accounts are consolidated and organized?

There are also many retirement hot spots for expat retirees such as Costa Rica, Mexico, Thailand, etc. There are many reasons why expats choose to retire overseas: lower cost of living compared to western countries, beautiful beaches, cuisine, climate, etc. Check out our Expat Retiree page to read more about international health coverage needs for your current or upcoming retirement plan.

Have you undertaken adequate tax planning and preparations before moving abroad?

Tax issues can be complicated, especially for international citizens. Moving abroad can involve significant tax implications – some positive and some negative. For example, some Canadians become non-residents for tax purposes when they move abroad along with significant tax savings depending on the country they will be residing in. For American expats, it can be quite complex as well. It is recommended to visit your local tax office and consult expat tax experts before moving overseas. We often recommend that expatriates talk to an expat tax expert such as Citizen Abroad Tax Advisors. We also list several other firms on our links page.

Have you made financial arrangements in your new home country?

If possible, it is wise to arrange for a new bank account in your new country of residence and bring adequate ID and financial letters from your home bank. You may also need to transfer money into a new currency – we recommend our foreign exchange associates at OFX and use them ourselves. You should also check into money restrictions and regulations in your existing and new country of residence.

Do you have international health insurance to protect you and your family while living abroad?

Yes, as you can guess global healthcare is near and dear to our heats! We work with many expats who reside where the local healthcare system is usually not the best choice. That local health coverage may not even be available, especially if you are residing in the developing world. You may not even be eligible for local healthcare or it simply may be substandard. The cost of using private medical care is usually very high in many parts of the world, especially in parts of Asia and of course the USA.  It is common that you may be living in a country where medical care is inadequate, and you may need to see medical care regionally or globally. The expense of emergency medical evacuation is also quite expensive. For example, we know of a friend of ours who was charged 75,000 USD for a short evacuation flight from one island to another. A large medical bill can destroy your financial goals and hurt your financial future. If your employer is providing health coverage, make sure it is adequate coverage for both you and your family. Note that some companies do not extend coverage to dependent spouses and children.

With an appropriate international medical plan in place, many individual expats and their families are covered around the globe (except in the USA unless you add it as an optional benefit). International health insurance plan provides day-patient care and full hospital coverage, preventive medical care, extensive cancer coverage, maternity and baby care (conditions may apply), dental & vision care and international medical evacuation and repatriation. This is especially important for expats going to visit the more rural areas in some less developed countries.

How to obtain international health insurance 

Expat Financial can source global medical insurance plans for expatriate families that can provide excellent coverage and premiums. We have been offering international health insurance coverage on an individual basis for many years. For more information, please check out our International Health Insurance page.

Urgent medical claim problem resolved by Expat Financial

This urgent medical claim from last night is why you should use our firm for your group expat insurance needs:

We received an email from the HR Manager for a group client of ours in the Middle East at 8 PM last night our time – an employee’s spouse in Europe was urgent need of an operation. The Global Mobility Manager informed us that the surgery was a life and death situation, but the hospital was outside of the large and well known global insurance company’s network – which is the largest in the world. The hospital was unwilling to accept a written guarantee of payment from the insurance company and their evacuation provider, ISOS – which is unheard of. The hospital wanted claim paid in advance, which is generally not possible. One option was to have employer or the employee pay the claim to hospital & get reimbursed. This is often the fastest solutions for these situations as the insurer can then reimburse the claim and if the insured’s family member does not have enough money or credit limit on hand, most employers will.

But we immediately called the expat group insurance company and got a workaround by having International SOS wire payment with insurer’s permission. It merely took a little broker advocacy. Payment was then wired by ISOS. The claim issue resolved. The employee was very much relieved and thanked all involved this morning. He mentioned in an email to us: “Really many many thanks for this!”

We asked the HR manager for permission to post this blog with no reference to the insurer, client or employee/dependent name etc… and he mentioned – “This is fine and true and I would like to thank you once again for your help.”

This is what we do as our client advocate, even after working hours and during weekends – it is what sets our firm apart. Expat Financial is a division of TFG Global Insurance Solutions Ltd. and is a global insurance brokerage firm.

To learn more about what we can do for your expat employees, contact us or visit our corporate page.

7 Tips for managing expat finances

For expats, those retiring offshore or even those going abroad for over a year, managing expat finances is critical. For most, moving abroad and working overseas can be one of the most exciting moments of your life. However, expats will want to plan ahead to preserve and grow expat finances and investments. It is very important for individuals and families to plan ahead and maximize their expat finances. In this article, we will discuss 7 great tips for managing and protecting expat finances and investment while living and working abroad.

1. Know Your Expat Tax Status 

A common misunderstanding about expat tax is when expats move abroad, they believe they are instantly exempt from their home nation’s tax system; however, this is usually not the case. For example, a British expat living abroad who is no longer a UK resident, he or she may still be responsible for the tax of the profits of a UK business or property situated in the UK, and UK pension income. With other countries such as Argentina, joint filling income tax is not available. For American expats, the complexity of expat tax can be quite daunting. Expat tax issues can be very complicated and it often makes sense to work with a professional firm. It is important to research and visit your local tax office before moving overseas to make sure that you know the rules. We often recommend that expatriates talk to an expat tax expert such as Trowbridge.

2. The Cost of Living for Expats

Before accepting a job offer overseas, you should definitely do some detailed research on the cost of living in your destination country. This may include any additional costs you may face. The cost of living for expatriates can vary significantly from one place to another and will often be more expensive than what the locals pay. For example, according to Numbeo, in Mexico, renting a 3 bedroom apartment in city centre costs over $500 USD; Whereas in Singapore, a 3 bedroom apartment rent per month could almost $4,000 USD. Knowing the cost of living in your destination country will give you peace of mind and let you plan ahead.

3. Currency Management is Critical for Expats

It is common for expats to exchange currencies from their hometown bank accounts into destination country’s currency. However, banks may charge high flat rates and currency exchange rates which expats will want to avoid. This is especially important for expat families with international payments across countries. Some international banks offer a fixed exchange rate for a specific period of time. Expats should explore different methods of managing currencies as this can save quite a bit of money and time. You can obtain more information on currencies and currency issues on our Foreign Exchange page.

4. Organize your Expat Investment Portfolio

You should organize and take stock of all your current investments before you become an expatriate. You should try to make sure you will be able to manage your various stock, bank and investment properties from abroad or if you will have to sell some of those investments before you go offshore, especially for tax reasons. Many expatriates often sell their homes before living abroad, but when they return they find that they should have retained and rented the home as housing values have increased dramatically – this is especially trued for many Canadian and Australian expatriates.

Your risk profile may change because you will be living abroad. Will you have the time and ability to manage your investment portfolio and will your new expat location impact your investment decisions. If you have a private or company pension plan, you should examine how living abroad will impact your retirement savings and taxes. It makes sense to talk to an investment expert before you live abroad.

5. Have You Cancelled Payments in your Hometown?

This is obvious, however, many expats may forget to cancel their orders in hometown and receive penalty charges. Remember to cancel any subscriptions such as phone, internet, magazines, etc. before you move abroad.

6. Do you have Adequate Life & Disability Insurance? 

One of the most overlooked parts of protecting you and your family’s financial future is making sure that you have adequate life and disability coverage. While your employer may provide some coverage, more often than not it will be inadequate to fully protect you and your family members from the financial hardships associated with a death or disability. Many expats employers only provide medical coverage and expats are expected to obtain their own life insurance or disability income cover. However, when you are living abroad, you may not qualify for local coverage and such life coverage may not be desirable or even available in your new home country. Also, expats need something both global and portable. Note that most expat life and disability plans are not portable back to your country of citizenship and if you have existing coverage, it’s probably a great idea to see if you can retain the policies as expat plans are usually more expensive.

To learn more about your expat life and disability requirements & the policies available, contact our firm for more information.

6. The Importance of Obtaining International Health Insurance

To many expats living and working abroad, the local healthcare system is usually not the best choice. The cost of using private medical care is usually very high in many parts of the world or you may be living in a country where medical care is inadequate and you may need to see medical care regionally or globally – sometime you may have to be evacuated. Either way, a large medical bill can wipe out your investments and put your financial future in peril.

With an appropriate international medical plan in place, many individual expats and their families are covered worldwide (except in the USA unless you add it as optional benefit). International health insurance plan provides day-patient care and full hospital coverage, extensive cancer coverage, maternity and baby care (conditions may apply), dental & vision care and international medical evacuation and repatriation. This is especially important for expats going to visit rural area in some less developed countries.

Expat Financial offers independent advice, solutions and ongoing service and support to clients around much of the world and we have extensive experience in sourcing medical cover for individual expats and expat employers worldwide. We can source plans from large and secure global insurance companies with excellent global service and support.

If you have questions about international medical insurance plans we offer to individual expats or your company requires a global expatriate group insurance plan, please contact us or complete the quote form. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Is your company employing American expats?

Is Your Company Aware of the Risks for American Expats?

Is your organization or multinational company employing American expats? Are you aware that most American expatriates will want to seek medical treatment in the USA if possible, especially for serious conditions? If so, are you aware of the significant costs associated with medical care in the USA?

We have sourced some excellent risk prediction guidelines for expatriate claims in the USA or for American expats who more often than not wish to obtain medical care back in their home country. These medical costs can easily run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and more often than not the employer will have to cover.

Our firm is highly experienced in both sourcing global medical coverage for firms that employ American expatriates and covering their dependents who are located with the overseas employee or residing back in the USA. Unfortunately, we often see extremely inadequate medical plans provided for American employees that will often restrict medical care in the States or not cover the USA at all. Even worse, some expat employers will have group insurance plans that don’t cover pre-existing medical conditions for these American expats.

international health insurance for chronic conditions

Annual Medical Costs in the USA

Our firm has gathered a detailed “Risk Prediction Guideline for Expat Claims in the USA” that we are able to share to corporate clients that employ expatriates in the USA or have American expat employees working overseas. Note that the costs can vary widely depending on the state, city, medical provider and of course the nature and severity of the claim. Here are some sample annual medical costs from the report:

Rheumatoid Arthritis: $40,000 to $60,000

Bone Cancer:  $100,000 to $250,000

Lymphoma: $80,000 to $150,000

Diabetes: $30,000 to $40,000

Valve Replacement: $60,000 or more

Transplants: Over $200,000 in most circumstances

Back Disorders: Over $50,000

Complicated Pregnancy & Birth: Easily over $500,000

So, as you can see from the sample of medical costs in US dollars, the annual medical treatment costs in the United States can often run in the hundreds of thousands and for many clients, one claim can easily exceed the entire medical premium that they would be paying for a group of American expatriates. Many expats or their family members will often suffer from one of these conditions or may in the future. Many expat employers are not aware of the fine print on their global medical coverage are being served by domestic-focused brokers with limited or no understanding of expatriate medical coverage.

Next Step for Expat Employers

It makes sense to cover these risks with a global benefit plan that will provide superior coverage for your entire expat population, especially American expats or foreign employees located in the USA. To learn more, contact our firm to discuss your global expatriate insurance needs as it pays to work with a specialist firm. You can also visit our corporate expat insurance page for additional details. If our firm is engaged as your expat insurance broker, we would be pleased to share our valuable risk report.