Once you’ve made the decision to move to another country, you should think about every aspect of your new life, and organise essentials like healthcare as soon as you can. If you’re originally from the UK, it’s easy to overlook healthcare when moving abroad, as you’ll be used to receiving free state-funded healthcare as and when needed, but in many countries around the world, both day-to-day and emergency care can cost a huge amount of money.
Nobody can predict when an emergency or health issue might arise, so protecting yourself sooner rather than later not only offers you peace of mind but ensures you won’t be charged thousands of pounds for a simple hospital appointment or dentist procedure. Below, we’ve put together some tips for finding the right expat health insurance policy for your needs.
Research into the healthcare standards and system in your new country as soon as possible so that you can get to grips with potential costs and fees. UK citizens in Europe can access healthcare services using their European Health Insurance Card, for example, but this isn’t guaranteed forever - investing in a private health insurance policy is highly recommended.
In some countries, you may be able to access local healthcare services for free, but only after you’ve paid into the local social security system. What’s more, you won’t be able to arrange local healthcare until you move to your new country, which could leave you without cover until you take out a health insurance policy or register with a local healthcare provider.
There are lots of reasons why you may be left with a gap in your coverage, so taking out expat healthcare insurance before you move will ensure you’re covered in the short term.
You should also check to see whether your home country has a healthcare agreement with your new host country. The United Kingdom has Reciprocal Healthcare Agreements with a number of non-European Economic Area (EEA) countries such as the British Virgin Islands, New Zealand, and Serbia, although most agreements cover only medical emergencies.
Your age, lifestyle and medical history will likely influence the expat health insurance policy you choose to sign up for. If you’re young, healthy, and have no medical problems, then you may opt for a basic policy that covers you only for accidents and emergencies; if you’re older or you have a long medical history, then opting for a comprehensive policy makes sense. If you choose a cheaper basic package, you might not be covered for conditions such as heart disease or cancer, so make sure you read the terms and conditions before you sign up, and remember to alert your insurance provider to any changes to your lifestyle or overall health.
The chances are that you’re moving abroad with your family, and so you should take into account their health insurance, too. Most expat health insurance providers offer package deals that allow you to cover your whole family for less, but you should take into account each person’s needs and history and remember that individual policies might be cheaper.
You should also think about the future. If you’re planning to conceive as an expat, consider an insurance policy with pregnancy and new born addons. In some countries, like the UAE, antenatal packages can cost up to AED 10,000, whilst C-sections cost AED 25,000. By planning for the future today, you’ll save money and know you’re protected, no matter what.
Many expats move abroad to work, and most employers will offer health insurance as part of a compensation package. If you’re insured, ask for a comprehensive list of illnesses and scenarios you’re covered for so that you can be sure it’s the right policy - don’t automatically assume you’re protected should something go wrong. It’s your responsibility to know what is and is not included in your insurance policy, and to organise any additional coverage on top.
Most companies only insure employees, and so you may need to find expat health insurance for your family. If possible, you could negotiate a better deal and ask for your family to be insured, too. Finally, remember that in some countries such as the United States, employers are liable to pay for health insurance for their employees. Know your rights as an expat.
Just as you would in the UK, shop around when looking for an expat health insurance policy and don’t assume that you have to pay more just because you’re an expat. Private health care companies in most countries will be happy to sign you up; you’ll pay monthly premiums, and they will pay out for some or all of the cost of the private medical treatment you receive.
Having said that, private healthcare isn’t always the cheapest option. Weigh up the pros and cons of registering at a private surgery or hospital, versus paying for insurance from the local government or a public healthcare provider. In other words, do what the locals would do!
However, the standard of care can vary significantly in some countries - understand what is included as standard, and consider upgrading if you’re concerned a basic package wouldn’t be enough. You cannot put a price on your health or comfort should something go wrong!
Speak with an insurance adviser who can offer guidance based on your circumstances. Not only can they tailor a package to your needs, but they can tell you what will and will not be covered in a policy in your new country of residence. Prepare a list of questions to ask over the phone or in person so that you’re equipped with all of the necessary information before signing up for an insurance policy, such as how they handle pre-existing conditions, what happens when you reach retirement, exclusions and whether you’re covered when travelling.
As is the case whenever you sign up for an insurance policy, reading the small print is the key to protecting yourself and your wallet. For more tips and tricks on living your best expat life, wherever you are in the world, add the Money Saving Expat blog to your bookmarks, and click here to sign up to our mailing list for regular advice by expats, for expats.
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