What to look for in a health insurance plan

Expats working or living abroad almost always need some kind of private health coverage. Many companies offer plans tailored to expats’ needs, but some may opt for a local plan. Either way, there are crucial considerations to make when making such an important decision.

Local vs international

The first choice to make is whether to opt for international health insurance or local. First of all, consider the characteristics of healthcare in your destination country. Is healthcare provided for free? Is there a national health service? Is insurance required? If you plan to stay in a country that provides coverage through a national health system, insurance may not even be necessary. If you do need insurance, a local one will cover you in only the country you reside in.

Many expats tend to move around a lot, and an international coverage will generally protect you wherever you are in the world. A global healthcare plan will provide more consistent coverage while you travel among different countries. If you don’t speak the local language, international health insurance can often provide access to a network of English-speaking doctors.

Estimate your health care needs

Make an estimate of your health care costs and look for a plan that is right for you. Avoid paying exorbitant prices for coverage you don’t need or, on the other hand, ending up paying too much out-of-pocket when your plan doesn’t cover enough. Insurance companies will tell you how much you will pay out-of-pocket under their plan, so take that into consideration.

If you have dependents that are moving with you, you can generally get coverage for everyone, so you can choose an insurance plan that is tailored to your and your family’s needs.

Identify the must-haves

Always consider the essential elements that your insurance plan must include. If you want to start a family, make sure maternity coverage is included. If you take regular medication for any kind of condition, check that they’re included in the policy. A good plan would ideally include preventive services and tests for the entire family, as well as prescriptions, specialists, surgery and hospital care.

Remember that family history is important. If there is a history of heart disease in your family, make sure related services, such as preventive screenings and medications, are covered.

What is included?

If you have a pre-existing condition, finding coverage might be difficult. Insurers tend to decline to cover people who have one. However, there are plans that provide cover for people with pre-existing conditions, if approved by the insurer.

Make sure your plan provides coverage in the areas where you will be residing. Some insurance plan exclude certain parts of the world, such as the United States, because of their high healthcare costs.

For expats, it is very important that the plan includes emergency evacuation and repatriation services, as they can be very expensive, especially in some parts of the world which may be less connected to transportation networks.

Research all the options

There are many factors to consider when moving abroad. The ones listed above cover the essential considerations to make when choosing a health insurance plan. It is essential to thoroughly research the available policies. You can visit the insurance companies’ online websites to find out their available plans and their costs.

Image: Vic

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Laura Gagliardi

Laura is a recent graduate from Italy who currently lives in Madrid, after four years spent studying in the United Kingdom. She loves to travel and spends her free time reading and writing.