Don’t leave it too late to get medical insurance

expat health insurance

Many insurers won't cover you if you apply for insurance after you have developed a serious condition.

It is vital to get health insurance when you are healthy. If you are unfortunate enough to be diagnosed with a serious medical condition it is unlikely any company will insure you.

The health insurance market can be a jungle with many traps and dangers in the form of small print and exclusion clauses. Finding the right health insurance is not an easy task and one that should not be undertaken lightly.

Chief Executive of Abacare Group Limited, Patrick Marie Herbet, has come across many cases where people have paid into a health insurance scheme all their life only to find out that they are not covered once they reach 65 years old (a time you are more likely to need health insurance). Or after a serious illness the insurer refuses to renew their cover.

In Patrick’s experience, “Most products offered in Hong Kong and Asia do not meet the minimum requirements of lifetime insurability and irrevocable renewability at the standard rate.”

A latent danger can occur, where a company pays for an employee’s health insurance. At first this may appear an excellent benefit. However as Patrick points out, “99% of people don’t realize that when they leave the company their health insurance is likely to be terminated. Only a few insurance providers allow an employee to retain an employer’s policy and continue paying the premium once they leave their employment.

“The situation can be particularly problematic for an ill or older person who will be uninsurable or will be faced with a very high premium if a new policy needs to be started. An international insurer may refuse to insure somebody with pre-existing conditions as common as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or high sugar level, or they may heavily load the premium.”

Insurance agents, brokers or the Internet?

The key to avoiding these insurance traps and to enjoying the full benefits of health insurance is to find a good broker. Brokers differ from agents. Agents work solely for one insurance company selling and promoting the products of that company.  In contrast to an agent, a broker works on behalf of the person needing insurance i.e. the customer and offers a number of different products from different insurance companies. Patrick draws the distinction between broker and agent in the following way, “The profession of a broker is to protect customer interests. Agents protect the interest of the insurance company.”

It is also important to work with a broker rather than getting a product directly through an insurance company or through the Internet. Firstly, a medical insurance product is complex and must be adapted to your particular situation. Secondly, the policy conditions, exclusions and limitations are rarely presented in commercial brochures.

Thirdly, when you need to claim, or have a very serious condition, or require hospitalization, the insurance company is often not very helpful in getting your money back as they protect their own interests. The nature of a good broker is fully dedicated to protecting the client’s interests. Lastly, the cost of a medical product is the same if you go directly to an insurance company or through a broker. With a good broker, however, you will get all the assistance, advice and services with it.

Abacare is probably the largest broker for individual and group insurance in Asia and Patrick Herbet believes it is one of the best because their core business is medical insurance. “Medical insurance is a lifetime choice and should be handled by qualified, objective professionals. As a broker we only work with the best companies and can advise our clients as to the most appropriate company and policy,” Patrick said.


The article was written by Abacare Insurance China. Abacare is an international insurance broker offering health Insurance in China for expatriates and their families.