Choosing Medical Insurance as an Expat

Finding good international private medical insurance (IPMI) should be a vital step in every expat’s preparations for moving abroad. Many, however, get confused about what type of insurance they should be getting and what level of cover is best for them. Ensuring that you have the correct cover is essential when living overseas as emergency medical costs can prove to be extremely expensive and financially ruin nearly anyone. This week ExpatFinder considers the differences between the various options and looks at what you should consider when looking for cover.

How Long are You Staying?

The simplest way to look at the choice between travel insurance and IPMI is to consider your length of stay. Generally, travel insurance is for people how are away from home for short periods, and you will rarely find policies that will cover you for a continuous period of longer than six months. Even though some schemes will provide global coverage for a 12-month period, the small print will specify a much shorter limit on continuous travel.

Where are You Living?
An important consideration to make is whether having IPMI is a visa condition for the country you are moving to. Some nations, such as the UAE, Switzerland and Australia, require expats to get appropriate insurance for local laws before they can get a residency permit or visa. Travel insurance doesn’t cover the necessary regulations, so will not be applicable in these, and many other, cases.

If you are only going on a short assignment of under six months and you can get travel insurance for that period, remember to read the small print thoroughly, especially any sections pertaining to your location of residence. As this type of insurance is specifically for those who are actively ‘travelling’, you will find that many policies will not cover you if you have an address within the country. This could mean that you are left without any insurance when you need it.

Whenever you are looking for multi-country insurance, however, make sure to find which countries are excluded from the cover, and compare them to which countries you need protection for. Policies which exclude nations with high healthcare costs, such as the United States and Hong Kong, are often much cheaper, and certainly worth it if these countries are not relevant to your situation.

What do You Want to be Covered?

It is important to note that although you might feel travel insurance covers all of your needs, that in fact, you may be wasting your money on coverage that you don’t need. Travel insurance covers some (limited) medical costs, with a focus on repatriation, but also is much more geared towards problems such as lost luggage and flight cancellations. On the other hand, IPMI provides much more comprehensive medical coverage and will protect you for a wide range of health care costs; essential when living in a foreign country.

Costs and Claims

Many avoid IPMI and look for alternatives because at first glance it’s more expensive than other types of insurance. However, IPMI is much more comprehensive regarding which medical procedures are covered and flexible with terms such as pre-existing conditions. The option for more tailored insurance plans means that you can work with the insurer to find a scheme which is better suited for your situation as opposed to fixed travel insurance plans.

When it comes to claims, IMPI policies are also more flexible when it comes to the required deductible and upfront costs required to gain medical treatment. Most travel insurance plans will provide the same initial payout regardless of what health care is needed, whether it be a twisted ankle or heart attack. IPMI providers, on the other hand, consider these matters to ensure you’re getting the treatment you require.

Giving Yourself Choice

Those who go for IPMI policies also have significantly more choice should they, unfortunately, find themselves in a medical emergency. The last thing you want in one of these situations is to be taken to a sub-par facility as opposed to a preferred treatment centre. Also, with travel insurance, the option for repatriation might not be provided if certain conditions are not met. IMPI provides you with the possibility of choosing where you want to receive medical treatment in the case of an emergency.

Whatever the length of your assignment, take the time to look through the available options and consider which choice will be the best for you. Don’t get sucked into going for the cheapest option, and seriously consider what service will be the right for you, should you need it.

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