Top 10 common international health insurance mistakes for expats

If you are an expatriate and searching for global health insurance plans, it is critical that you select the right plan for you and your family. Without an appropriate health insurance plan, you may be putting your health and finances at risk. To help you make the best choices, in this article, we will discuss steps to avoid the common health insurance mistakes that expatriates sometimes make. The following mistakes and advice we provide below relate to both individual and corporate expat health plans.  Remember, we all make mistakes, but when it comes to expat healthcare, it makes sense to read the points below to help avoid the following:

Mistake #1: Not choosing a plan that can cover a pre-existing medical condition

If you or your family member suffer from a medical condition, one of the most important questions to ask of any health insurance plan is whether it would cover pre-existing medical conditions. Most of the insurers will exclude pre-existing medical conditions, however, some will charge an additional premium to approve the application, but this depends on the severity of the medical condition. For example, how serious the condition is, how long you have been treatment free and the potential costs of treatment. There is usually an exception for group plans because the risk is spread among healthy and unhealthy people – such group plans can often cover pre-existing medical conditions if the number of employees covered is large enough – usually 10 or 20 employees.

Expat Financial works with global medical insurance companies who can provide full coverage for pre-existing medical conditions on the medical coverage for both the employees and dependents if the employer has more than 25 or 30 global employees – including both expats and local nationals. These excellent insurance plans can even provide full coverage for an expat group of only two or three expat employees. This is a significant advantage for any expat employer as almost all employees or dependents, especially older ones, will have at least one medical condition. To learn more, please contact us or obtain a free quote online

Mistake #2: Obtaining a domestic policy

Some expatriates purchase health insurance plans that don’t provide them with adequate amount of coverage when living and traveling abroad. Domestic government health plans usually provide coverage to access to private medical facilities. These plans are usually basic and will not allow for treatment outside your home country and are also not portable if you move to a new country. Therefore, expatriates will want to purchase international health insurance plan that covers them locally, regionally and globally. Most international health insurance plans will provide in-patient medical care, out-patient medical care, specialists care, routine scans, etc. If you are relocating to a region with limited medical services, you can select the medical evacuation option. Most of the global medical plans will offer dental and vision options. Finally, don’t rely on your health policy back home, it probably doesn’t cover you abroad.

Mistake #3: Assuming you are young and healthy and don’t require cover

If you assume that you and your family are healthy and don’t need to obtain health insurance, you are definitely putting your health and finance at risk. This is especially true in situations such as maternity care, cancer, accidents and emergency evacuation. Medical expenses in both developing and developed nations can be extremely expensive and you don’t want to go bankrupt because of uninsured medical fees.

Mistake #4: Not obtaining maternity coverage

Maternity care in private hospitals among many countries can be very expensive. It is important to obtain maternity coverage if you are planning to become pregnant as an expatriate. Most plans have a 12 month waiting period before maternity related expenses will be covered. We often get calls from expatriates who are currently pregnant and want coverage for that birth, but for individual expatriates this is not possible as you would have to have obtained a global medical plan that covered pregnancy and new child at least 12 months prior to conception. If your child is born with health issues, the baby will have to medically underwritten as a new applicant if maternity coverage was not in force 12 months prior – this can be a huge liability. If you are planning to have children or if there is a possibility that you may become pregnant, it is vital that your global health plan include maternity care

Mistake #5: Not obtaining evacuation coverage

Emergency evacuation is another critical part of any expatriate’s medical coverage, especially if you are residing in a developing country where local medical facilities are not up to western standards. It will ensure you have access to high quality medical facilities in the event of an medical emergency. Ambulances, helicopters, planes and travelling medical care can be incredibly high if you are not properly insured. For many expats in the Caribbean for example, there are some excellent medical facilities, but an expat may have to obtain medical care in the USA for more serious medical conditions, such as obtaining treatment in Miami. 

Mistake #6: Obtaining the cheapest global medical plan

A very common mistake that expats sometime make is choosing a plan based on price alone. If it is a lot cheaper than most plans in the market, there is probably a good reason for this. We are all guilty of looking for a good deal, but try not to when it comes to global medical insurance. If you are living or working overseas, you want an insurance plan that is going to be there when you need it. Quality is extremely important. Our most comprehensive policy with excellent service is the Cigna Global plan we offer on our web site. We offer the same coverage and price and you get the benefit of our agency support both before and after you purchase – we are your advocate.

The premiums of expatriate health insurance plan depends on a variety of factors: age, gender, citizenship, geographic area of coverage, deductible level, etc. These factors help the international health insurer determine your initial and renewal premiums. Before picking an international health insurance plan, you should carefully consider co-pays, co-insurance or deductible level, depending on your health care needs. Don’t pick a plan just because of its low premiums. In fact, there are some ways to lower your health insurance premiums while still obtaining first class access to your desired coverage level. Please read blog article How to lower your global medical insurance premiums – Five tips for expats to learn more about it. Contact us to discuss your requirements and obtain quotes from the market.

Mistake #7: Not telling the truth on application

Some expats may suffer from a pre-existing medical condition and not disclose it to the insurer. This is a serious mistake as it will allow the insurer to invalidate all your claims and terminate your insurance policy. Insurers will find out eventually and it is vital that you provide full disclosure of your health when you complete the application online or offline. Insurers will often write your doctor to confirm your medical health before or after a policy is taken out, so make sure you tell the truth when applying. If you have a condition, disclose it and provide as much detail as possible along with reports, tests and it is possible that the condition will be covered, depending on the insurer and the condition.

Mistake #8: For Americans, not obtaining a plan that covers treatment in the USA

Some American expats do not obtain a plan that covers medical treatment back home. If you are an American expat, there is a good chance you will want a plan that will allow you medical treatment back in the USA where you have family, friends and other support groups. Yes adding US care to your policy will cost you more, but surprisingly for some plans that cost is quite minimal – especially the Cigna Global Health Options plan we offer online.

expat healthcare if critical

Mistake #9: Not purchasing a plan that covers drugs

If you are an expatriate taking prescription drugs for short term or under chronic medical conditions, it is vital to obtain prescription drug coverage. Many countries have very expensive drug costs, especially when taking major illness drugs or new drug. Many drugs, especially biologics, are extremely expensive so it is important to purchase a plan with prescription cover.

Mistake #10: Not checking the fine print

International health insurance is complex and can be confusing for expats who are living and working abroad. We are all guilty of not reading the fine print or policy coverage details. If is important when you are purchasing a global medical plan that you carefully read the fine print of the global medical policy. This can also include checking the medical network and administration details of the provider.

Expat Financial offers several global insurance plans that will provide excellent drug coverage for expatriates who living abroad. Some of the global medical plans we offer can even cover local nationals in select countries. The international health plans from providers such as CignaMSH and IMG can provide prescription drug coverage for most expatriates. You can get a quote online and apply for the individual expat health plans we offer.