Historically, around 50 percent of people leaving the UK for a new life abroad do not have any form of health insurance. Many believe they will still qualify for free NHS treatment should an emergency arise. However, recent changes to the rules mean many British expats are no longer entitled to free treatment on the NHS.
Underlining the increasing cost of medical treatment at home and abroad for even the most apparently mundane complaints, Debbie Purser, managing director of MediCare International highlights two recent examples of on-going claims MediCare International has settled on behalf of policyholders.
In the first case, a 53 year old man living and working aboard a luxury yacht suffered chest pains. He visited a doctor in the U.S., and after extensive tests was diagnosed with a blockage which required an emergency stent. He continues to make a steady recovery, but requires regular monitoring. As a result medical bills of over £20,000 have been paid over the last six months.
In the second case, a 34 year old British man fell and broke his wrist while in Turkey. Although a full recovery is predicted, to date, medical bills for treatment and rehabilitation total £13,000. These cases are a reminder of the importance of ensuring both you and your family are covered when moving abroad.
Many expats are unaware that even if they are able to fly home to the UK to receive treatment, there is no guarantee they will receive it. If you have been living outside the UK for more than 12 months you will be interviewed by the hospital to assess whether you are eligible for free care. You may be asked for proof of residence in the UK and medical opinion may be sought to prove your illness started or worsened while in the UK. If you’re not assessed as eligible to receive free treatment you will be asked to pay all or part of the costs.
MediCare International points out that while the two cases illustrate the importance of comprehensive health coverage abroad, it’s cancer which can produce bills in the tens of thousands of pounds – especially if the patient changes country to obtain treatment.
Two clients of MediCare with cancer who are currently being treated have so far run up bills over £65,000 and £262,000 respectively. In one case, having taken out worldwide cover, the client elected to be flown from Europe and treated in the USA in order to be able to access the highest standards of care. In the other, chemotherapy was started in Hong Kong, with the client being flown to London to complete the treatment.
Debbie Purser adds, “Cancers are now far more treatable than was the case 20 years ago. However the cost of that treatment can be very high. At MediCare International, we will meet the cost of cancer diagnosis and treatment, both today and into the future, giving clients immense peace of mind.”