For instance, citizens of European Union member states can access healthcare services in other EU countries by producing their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) when requiring treatment.
However, the EHIC is not an all-inclusive healthcare offering and is only really suitable for emergency treatment. This means expats should register with a doctor to access healthcare services as citizens of that country would do.The big attraction for EU citizens is that most of their healthcare needs will be delivered for free.
However, this does not mean that healthcare insurance is unnecessary for expats switching between EU countries since the insurance will help pay for conditions and diagnosis that the EHIC will not cover.
There are basically four tips that expats should appreciate when they begin a search for their health insurance plan.
1. Decide on healthcare needs
Not all expat healthcare insurance plans are the same because not all expat healthcare needs will be the same; this means the plan will vary depending on where the expat is living, their age, their lifestyle as well as their family medical history.
Younger expats will not be making as many demands on their health insurance as older expats so their premiums will be much lower but they will need to consider what their health care insurance needs will be over the coming 10 years, for instance, and find a plan to suit.
It’s also important that expats looking for healthcare insurance find a policy that will cover medical emergencies as well as accidents. This should really be the basic coverage plan which will help cater for any unexpected medical situation but may not pay for a chronic condition that is diagnosed, such as a disease or a serious illness.
When expats are considering their family’s medical history, they should appreciate that if there are any conditions that exist among parents, siblings or extended members of the family then they should opt for a comprehensive expat health insurance plan to deal with any future potential major non-emergency medical issues.
2. Who will be insured?
The next question that needs to be asked on an expat’s healthcare checklist is who will need to be covered by the health insurance policy? If they are travelling with their family, then they need to appreciate their healthcare needs and find a suitable family plan.
Expats should also appreciate that they may need to factor in future potential medical requirements and needs, such as having a baby which can be an expensive exercise in many countries and may add substantially to a healthcare insurance plan costs.
Also, for expats with children, they may need to consider specialised care as well as dental treatment for their offspring.
3. Understand the policy
While finding the right expat healthcare insurance plan can be a time-consuming experience, it is important to do the research thoroughly and understand the health insurance terms being used.
Among the terms will be ‘deductibles’ which is what the expat must pay for a medical procedure before the insurer steps in to pay the balance. Usually, a sound way for expats to save money on health insurance costs is to opt for higher deductibles.
4. Research is key
There’s no doubt that researching health plans will pay dividends but also researching the healthcare system of the country the expat is moving to will as well, since not all countries offer the best services.
Whereas European countries offer excellent levels of care with free emergency treatment when necessary, that’s not always the case elsewhere.
For instance, expats moving to China will find a big difference between private and public-run medical facilities so their plan should offer a choice of hospitals and doctors.
For expats in the US, most will find their employer delivers a basic healthcare insurance plan which is a legal requirement though employees still take out extra health insurance to cover for expensive treatments and long-term illnesses; expats should never forget that the cost of care in the US is very expensive and insurance will help soften any potential financial bill.
While this health checklist for expats is not extensive, it’s a good point to highlight the importance of healthcare insurance brokers who have the experience and expertise to deliver a healthcare plan that is suitable for an expat and their family.
Expat healthcare brokers
Often, these expat healthcare brokers can offer more suggestions and health care tips, particularly if the expat is moving to an undeveloped country.
Another important aspect that should be on every expat’s health checklist is to register with their new country’s local health system as early as possible so they can access doctors when necessary rather than having to consult with their insurer first.
However, expats should also investigate whether they will be entitled to use public healthcare facilities before doing so and have funds available for treatment in a private hospital since many healthcare plans will reimburse them at a later date.
Indeed, the health checklist should also analyse the standard for public and private healthcare facilities in the expat’s new country to see what level of healthcare insurance will be necessary.
The health checklist should also consider what the hazards are for their health overseas and if the expat needs immunisations to protect against diseases, then these should be arranged in good time before setting off.
Finally, the expat’s health checklist should also consider the quality of the healthcare provision being provided by an insurer which means checking they have a good reputation and do not have a history of refusing to settle any claims.
In addition, they should ensure that the hospitals being covered by the insurer are near to the expat’s new location and have a policy that provides cover for participating in sporting activities. The policy should also have a direct billing system in operation rather than having the expat pay the bill before they are reimbursed.
And possibly the most important part of a health checklist should be having around-the-clock phone assistance from the insurance company in the expat’s own language and should there be an emergency than the process for accessing help should be clear.
The important thing for expats heading overseas who are thinking about their health checklist is to consider the worst-case scenario and prepare for that eventuality with a suitable insurance policy though it’s unlikely the policy will be needed, it will bring peace of mind.