Medical costs can be frighteningly high and are rising well above the headline infliation rates. This means that medical insurance for expats and their families is essential and should be the first thing on the financial check list.
There are many factors to consider when choosing medical insurance for expats:
My checklist offers some of the more important things to take into account:
Geographic coverage: Some countries, where medical costs are exceptionally high (for example, the United States), may be excluded in certain policies. Be sure to check that the locations where you will be based, working and travelling are covered.
Pre-existing and chronic conditions: If you have a pre-existing condition of any kind it is important to check the terms of your insurance. Some plans may offer cover, restricted cover or full cover after a stated period when a condition has been successfully treated. Chronic conditions may require regular consultations and treatment, be clear about the extent of cover available in these circumstances.
Choice of hospital and treatment location: Most medical insurance for expats will allow you to choose which hospital to seek treatment at. Repatriation or alternative countries may also be options when choosing treatment. If this is likely to be important to you or your family, be sure to check what options are offered.
Cover for emergency evacuation: This is usually covered by most international medical insurance policies and often includes the costs of a companion.
Level of annual deductibles or excess: Check the excess deductions of the policy. Whilst they may reduce the cost of cover, it is important that provision is made in your financial planning should you need to pay the excess amount.
Method of claim or reimbursement: Some insurance companies have arrangements in place with hospitals that guarantee direct payment from the insurer to the hospital. Others may require you to pay the costs to the hospital and then claim them back from the insurers. Depending upon your circumstances, this may be an important issue to take into account.
Continuous transfer terms: When transferring out of a group scheme it is worthwhile checking if you can retain the same plan for a personal policy and save on the premiums by doing so.
Flexibility of premium payments: Monthly payments are common, but may in some cases carry a cost. It is worth checking both the annual and monthly rates to decide which suits your budget the best.
Cover for alternative and complementary medicine: If alternative or complementary treatments are likely to be required or preferred, it is important to check that there is suitable cover.
Age limits and renewability: Check the terms of any renewability clauses and confirm if there is an age limit that might present a cause for concern
Emergency medical advice and assistance: Support services such as hotlines are often included in medical insurance for expats in Asia, check that they suit your requirements.
Additional benefits: Free health checks are often available through medical insurance cover. Check the terms of availability, the frequency and at what stage in the cover they become available.
As you can see there is a lot of information to consider. This is not always an easy matter as many of the terms and conditions are included in the small print which many people overlook.