Things to consider when buying international expat health insurance

Standard, one-size-fits-all insurance plans are a thing of the past as today’s consumers are increasingly demanding products and services that are catered to them, and prioritizes their experience above all. Welcome to the era of personalization.

Are you one of these new-generation consumers? Or maybe you’re still weighing in on this latest phenomenon? As more and more insurers jump on the personalization bandwagon, we’ll show you how to identify plans that are truly personalized and select one that’s right for you.

To narrow down your choices for a best-fit plan, here are several questions to ask yourself.

Personalize your hospital network

Do you have a favorite doctor?

Already have a trusted doctor? Make sure they are in your insurer’s hospital network. This way, you’ll be covered whenever you pay them a visit or receive treatment.

Do you prefer English-speaking doctors?

Hospital costs vary dramatically in around the world. You can usually find English-speaking doctors at well-known, expensive private hospitals. As the cherry on top, these facilities are equipped with the latest medical equipment. Also known as High Cost Providers, be sure to have your insurance in place before your visit so you won’t be paying out-of-pocket. This brings us to our next question:

How much are you willing to pay for English-speaking doctors?

Treatments at private hospitals can cost an arm and a leg. However, it’s hard to resist a healthcare experience that rivals what you are used to back home. Copayment is a good option if you’re a bit tight on budget. If you are relatively healthy and want to avoid paying a high premium, you can choose to exclude or limit coverage at HCPs. For example, a 20% copayment on treatments received there would translate to your insurer covering only 80% of the cost.

Be forewarned though, even a copayment of 20% at HCPs can still be very expensive! We recommend discussing with your insurer before going with this option.

Personalize your benefits & plan levels

What level of coverage do you need?

Coverage levels can vary greatly depending on your insurer and plan. We’ll break it down for you in simple terms so you know what you need. Basically, there are three main levels of coverage:

Inpatient only

Not interested in footing the bill for costly procedures at private institutions? We recommend at least going for inpatient-only coverage. This refers to any treatments that involve an overnight stay (or longer) at a hospital. Surgery costs and ambulance fees are a few examples of what’s included in this plan.

Inpatient and outpatient

This add-on benefit to inpatient-only insurance covers all expenses that do not require hospitalization. Think: a session with your physiotherapist or a visit to your family doctor’s office.

Full coverage

Besides the above benefits, you can purchase extra ones like dental and maternity coverage. Keep in mind that this will add to the overall premium of your plan.

Do you need cover for any pre-existing conditions?

Pre-existing conditions are medical conditions you’ve already had before your plan enrollment. Usually, they are chronic conditions requiring long-term care, like heart diseases or diabetes. Unfortunately, most policies exclude pre-existing conditions.

For those that do, they may place an additional premium or a waiting period on your condition. A waiting period is the time you have to wait before your insurance kicks in.

In which countries/regions would you like to be insured?

Country of residence only: with this, you can occasionally opt for a lower level of coverage. 

Regional. ie, South America, Africa or Asia.: this is usually a bit cheaper than international insurance.

Worldwide excluding the US: healthcare is incredibly costly in the US, hence this option. If needed, you can secure emergency USA patient coverage.

Worldwide: if you travel regularly, international health insurance is your best bet. With this, you can go anywhere your heart desires knowing that you have access to the top hospitals worldwide.

Personalize your cost-sharing options

Is there a way to save on your health insurance premium?

There are several ways to cut costs on your health insurance plan. As mentioned above, copayment is one such option. Another cost-sharing option is to introduce a deductible. A deductible is the amount of money you must pay first before your insurer pays anything. The rule of thumb is that the higher the deductible, the lower your premium.

Choosing to pay annually instead of quarterly will also be good for your wallet. Premiums usually increase by around 4 to 8% if you pay quarterly. Also, take advantage of your insurer’s No Claims Discounts (NCDs), if any. You can receive up to 15% off your premium if no claims have been submitted the previous year!

Tip: You are more likely to use the outpatient benefit than the inpatient benefit. Opt for a lower deductible on your inpatient coverage and a lower one on the other (if applicable).

How can you effectively compare insurers and plans?

With scores of insurers and thousands of plans out there, comparing them and selecting one is no easy feat. That’s where Expat International unbiased and knowledgeable insurance advisors come in.

We can help you figure out the level of personalization that’s right for you and match you with the best insurer, as well as help you tailor your plan based on your needs and budgets by adjusting plan terms like hospital network, coverage levels, deductibles, and more.




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