Choosing expat health insurance

Finding the best health insurance plan is an essential part of moving abroad. Waiting until you’re in the country or, worse, until you’re ill, could leave you with huge medical costs that can easily be avoided with some pre-departure planning. Though it can often seem confusing, we have a list of a few factors to bear in mind when sorting out your healthcare.

Country specifics

The most important thing to bear in mind is how the healthcare system works in your host country and whether you’ll be eligible for public healthcare or not. Certain countries, like the UAE, require you to get a health insurance plan by law, so it is essential to do some research before you leave.

You should also check what the quality of public healthcare is like, as it may be very different to that of your own country. In some countries, like Azerbaijan, expats choose to be evacuated to Turkey or repatriated home for important medical procedures, owing to the poor healthcare in the country. Check whether your insurance company provides cover for such an event.

Some countries have reciprocal healthcare agreements, so check to see whether this applies to you and what it covers. Often, however, these agreements only cover medical emergencies, so for full coverage you may want to purchase a policy to work alongside it.

Public vs private

Most public healthcare systems do not provide full coverage, so it is essential that you find out what is and isn’t included. In some countries, for example, you won’t be able to access certain treatment, like maternity care, until you have made social security contributions for several months. As such, some expats choose to take out private medical insurance or expat health insurance instead.

Taking out a private national plan in your host country may also reduce waiting times and give you access to higher quality care. It also increases the likelihood of finding an English-speaking healthcare professional, which can be incredibly beneficial if you don’t speak the language.

Expat employee benefits

If you are an expat being sent abroad for work, your company may provide health insurance for you. However, it is still vital that you identify what is and isn’t covered, and whether it would be more beneficial to take out your own policy.

Some expats are not covered by their company’s policy but are able to include an insurance clause in their contract. Check whether this applies to you and the type of policy that can be included.

National vs international

First things first, if you have private health insurance in your home country, contact your provider to see whether they will cover you when abroad, what is covered, and for how long. Travel insurance is perfect for short holidays but is unlikely to be sufficient for expatriation, so don’t rely on that alone.

Expats regularly moving between countries should consider an international plan, which covers them in the countries they often travel to, over a national policy. Even if you have private national insurance in your host country, coverage abroad may be time- and service-limited.

Adjust your plan to suit you

Consider whether you need maternity care, family cover, dental care or mental health services. If you have a preexisting medical conditions, decide whether you’re happy to cover these yourself or whether you want an insurance plan that’ll cover them. It is highly unlikely, for example, that travel insurance will cover such conditions, so take these factors into consideration. If you have specific medical needs, an individual private medical insurance (IPMI) policy, which is adapted to benefit that person, may be the best option for you.

Do not settle for an insurance plan that doesn’t match your needs, as you’re likely to end up paying more out of your own pocket. Take the time to do some research, compare plans and prices, and find the best policy to suit you.