What Is Expat Health Insurance? What Does It Cost?

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If you leave the UK and become an expatriate, you’ll likely need private medical insurance to provide health coverage while you’re living overseas. Global health systems vary considerably from country to country. Many places have limited, if any, readily accessible public health system, meaning without expat health insurance you’d have to pay for all treatment out of your own pocket.

Even where countries do have some state healthcare, as an expatriate you may find that it’s contributions-based and you therefore can’t use it until you’ve been paying local taxes for a set period.

As such, if you’re thinking about living outside the UK, it makes sense to choose comprehensive international medical insurance to ensure you and your family can receive health care overseas.

What Does International PMI Cover?

Expat Health Insurance usually offers far broader medical coverage than UK-only health plans.

While a UK policy won’t cover every healthcare need, being designed to work alongside the NHS rather than replace it entirely, an international plan covers pretty much all of your global health care needs.

For instance, a UK policy won’t cover emergency treatment, most maternity care or treatment for chronic conditions. The NHS remains responsible for these, where global health insurance for expats would cover such treatment.

Complete UK Guide To Expat Private Medical Insurance

Generally speaking, core international cover includes:

  • General medicine / checkups (for example GP appointments or the local equivalent)
  • The cost of drugs and dressings
  • Inpatient, day-patient and outpatient treatment
  • Treatment in intensive care
  • Cancer treatment.

Additional benefits may include:

  • Hospital expenses relating to maternity
  • Maintenance of chronic conditions
  • Therapies such as physiotherapy
  • Dental and optical cover.

Most policies offer access to a 24 / 7 emergency telephone healthcare helpline. If you have an international medical emergency, this helps you arrange urgent treatment with an approved global healthcare provider.

Do I Need An International Healthcare Policy?

Compared to many other countries around the world, we’re spoiled in the UK to have a comprehensive health service free at the point of use.

Most countries don’t have such comprehensive healthcare systems. This means anything from a simple trip to the doctor to an operation is fully chargeable. Few expats could afford the full cost of global healthcare out of their own pockets.

The Cost Of Global Health Care

International health systems are incredibly varied, both in terms of cost and just what they offer on a subsidised / publicly-funded basis.

Website MedicalTourism.com reveals that a heart bypass in the USA would set you back $123,000. With little in the way of public healthcare in the USA, this would be a very expensive treatment.

Even in countries where healthcare isn’t as notoriously pricey as the USA, getting ill can still be costly. In Italy, for example, AXA PPP places the cost of a single night as an inpatient at £510.

Even where there is public healthcare, this may be dependent on some kind of social insurance scheme. France, Belgium, Germany and Sweden have a publicly funded system, although they vary in the way that they provide services.

For example, the French healthcare system sees the state pay for a proportion of treatment and many people use an insurance fund to pay the rest.

All good expatriate health care policies take into account the health system in the country or countries you’ll be living in so they can cover your healthcare fully while you’re abroad.

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How Much Does Expat Health Insurance Cost?

The most important factor when it comes to the cost of premiums is the country or countries you’ll be moving to. For international cover, providers break down coverage by region rather than on a country-by-country basis, meaning you have a choice of whether you’ll need treatment:

  • In Europe only
  • Worldwide excluding the USA / North America
  • Worldwide including the USA / North America.

When getting a quote the cheapest option is for expats who’ll be sticking to Europe. A global healthcare plan including the USA / North America is the most expensive, reflecting the sheer cost of healthcare there.

Given providers base premiums on regions rather than countries, if you travel throughout a region you’ll still have Health Insurance coverage wherever you are, even if you cross an international border.

On top of where you’ll need treatment, there are also some personal factors at play when it comes to the cost of individual cover. For instance, premiums will be dependent on your:

  • Age
  • Smoker status
  • Current state of health / pre-existing medical conditions.

Additional Policy Options

Most plans usually come in ‘tiers’, allowing you to add more coverage to increase how comprehensive your policy is. The more comprehensive your policy, the more expensive premiums will be.

These add-ons include cover for:

  • Routine dental care (e.g. checkups, fillings etc.)
  • Routine optical care (e.g. checkups and prescription eyewear)
  • An annual health assessment / MOT
  • Vaccinations.

What Are Health Insurance Deductibles?

Another major factor influencing the cost of a policy will be your deductible. A deductible refers to the sum of money you pay upfront towards your medical care before your policy kicks in to cover the rest.

Higher deductibles mean lower premiums. However, you should always think carefully before setting up your deductible as you want to ensure it’s affordable to pay should you need to claim.

There are two options for a deductible, an excess or a co-payment:

  • Excess
    You pay a fixed monetary amount towards your healthcare, usually every time you make a claim.
  • Co-payment
    You agree to pay a percentage of your overall healthcare bill when you claim rather than a fixed cash amount.

If you need to make a claim a co-payment policy tends to work out more expensive for the policyholder, especially if you have considerable international healthcare needs.

For example, imagine the above mentioned £123,000 cost of treatment for a heart bypass in the USA. Even a 5% co-payment would mean an upfront bill of $6,150 before your International Health Insurance kicked in.

What’s The Difference Between Health Insurance And Travel Insurance?

There are several differences between Travel Insurance and Private Medical Insurance. Ultimately, Travel Insurance simply isn’t suitable for those living overseas for long periods or even indefinitely and needing medical treatment.

  • Travel Insurance purely pays for international healthcare needed as a result of accidents and emergencies during temporary stays overseas.
  • Cover will often be limited to trips of up to 90 consecutive days to be eligible for full medical cover while overseas.
  • Once you’ve been medically stabilised following illness or injury, your travel insurer will typically expect you to travel home to continue your recovery.

While Travel Insurance will cover travel-specific problems such as lost luggage or missed flights, which Health Insurance for expats doesn’t cover, it’s not the policy you need if you plan to travel abroad long-term.

Travel Insurance also isn’t designed to provide international healthcare for routine medical problems that arise while you’re overseas. It won’t cover the cost of a joint replacement, for example (unless it’s an emergency). An expat with just Travel Insurance would typically have to return home for any routine medical care.

Who Are The Best Expat Private Medical Insurance Providers?

There are a broad range of providers in the international health insurance market, some are global brands where others are niche providers who are particular competitive for certain locations and demographics.

We have a team of expert advisers who have access to all of the leading insurers however the list below details the most common providers we tend to work with:

  • Allianz
  • April International
  • AXA PPP Global Healthcare
  • Bupa Global
  • Cigna
  • Freedom Worldwide Insurance.

Each insurer has their own approach to pricing based on the regions covered and personal factors such as age and medical history.

Given this, it is vitally important you compare quotes from a range of providers to ensure you find the most competitive policy for your needs.

Compare Expatriate Health Insurance Quotes & Get Expert Advice

When you travel abroad and become an expat, you can’t always rely on international healthcare systems being there when you need it. The cost of medical treatment can be high, so you ideally want a Health Insurance plan to cover all eventualities.

We’ve got a team of experts on hand to provide advice and help you compare quotes from all the top insurers to ensure you get the best deal for your circumstances.

Why Speak to Us?

We started Drewberry™ because we were tired of being treated like a number.

We all deserve a first class service when it comes to issues as important as protecting our health. Below are just a few reasons why it makes sense to talk to us.

If you require any guidance, further information or quotes, please do not hesitate to pop us an email or give us a call on 02074425880.

I’ve held a policy with Drewberry for several years now. They are always friendly, insightful and offer great service.

Dan Pettitt
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