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How to choose the right expat health insurance

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No one wishes to get sick or find themselves in an emergency when living abroad. However, emergencies and accidents do happen, and no one is immune to things going wrong. So, choosing the right type of expat health insurance should be one of your main concerns if you're moving overseas. But how can you choose the best health insurance plan for you and your family without spending a fortune? Expat.com gives you some tips on choosing your expat health insurance wisely, and securing a good health! 

Assess your needs

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It all depends on your expatriation project –  are you planning to move alone or with your family? For how long will you be living overseas? In case you only intend to make a short stay abroad, your primary insurance may provide coverage upon notification. You will then be eligible for a travel insurance that covers only medical emergencies, including hospital admission. If you're planning a long-term stay abroad, subscribing to a health and repatriation insurance may be the wisest choice. For those moving with their family, an individual insurance may be required for each family member, which is likely to be more costly.

It is common for foreign professionals moving overseas to be entitled to an insurance package on behalf of their employer including medical coverage in their host country. However, subscribing to an international health insurance might be the best option if you would rather prefer an optimal coverage, especially in the private healthcare system.

Check the countries covered

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As an expat, you won't necessarily spend the rest of your life in one specific country. You might be travelling to different countries for various reasons – work, holidays, attending a conference, etc.. Here again, an international health insurance seems to be the best option so you won't have to worry in case you need healthcare anywhere else. However, make sure your insurance provider covers the country where you will be living in or travelling to. You should also inquire about the specific conditions.

It is best when your insurer is present in your host country and easily accessible from anywhere else in the world. Also, did you know that there are tailor-made insurance plans, adapted to different geographical zones? If you're moving to South-East Asia, for example, you might be eligible for cheaper rates with a dedicated expat health insurance.

Evaluate the quality and cost of healthcare

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Expats are not always eligible for universal or partly subsidised healthcare services. Also, you might have to wait for years until you become a permanent resident to be entitled to universal healthcare – which highlights the importance of having an expat health insurance. Keep in mind that several criteria, such as the cost and quality of healthcare provided in your host country have to be considered. It goes without saying that moving to a country where the cost of living is high, cost of medical care will also be high.

If you're moving to the USA, for example, you should expect medical care to cost a lot more even if that doesn't necessarily mean quality. This is precisely one of the reasons why more and more people from the USA prefer to travel to Mexico for more affordable healthcare services.

Your host country's currency is another significant issue to take into account. In general, insurance offers are made in euros or dollars – which means that you will have to determine which is the best option according to your salary currency, for example.

Choose the right cover

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The ideal insurance cover depends on many criteria, including your age, family, financial situation, and, of course, your current health condition. For example, the older you get, the higher the rates will be. Also, as mentioned above, rates will vary from one country to another and according to the quality of the healthcare system. You also have to assess your individual needs, for example, do you wear eyesight glasses, regularly need dental care, or are you under a treatment that requires medication?

Your insurance provider may offer optional services in addition to health and repatriation assistance. These include compensation in case of employment termination, personal liability insurance, or even death benefit.

While you might be tempted to choose the insurance policy that best suits your wallet, make sure you're aware of the correct meaning of the different terms used. “Hospital admission”, for example, refers to admission for a minimum of 24 hours, so half a day spent at the emergency unit is not taken into account. Note, moreover, that you will have to wait until the beginning of the following year should you want to review your insurance policy.

Check the terms and conditions

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To avoid any unpleasant surprise once on the spot, make sure to check the refund terms and conditions thoroughly. For instance, how long does it take to receive your refund? What is the process to make your claims? Some insurance companies have an online portal where claims are made easier. Refund is usually made within seven days following receipt of your request including all required documents (receipts, prescriptions, doctor's letter, etc.).

In case of hospital admission, you have nothing to pay for as support becomes your insurer's responsibility via a dedicated system. Nevertheless, remember to inquire about any deductibles that may apply and take the time to compare offers in order to opt for the best one depending on your needs.

Once obtained, remember to carry your health insurance card with you at all times!

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