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27/02/2012Moving abroad? Don't miss health insurance off your essential check list (sponsored contribution)
Moving home is one of the most stressful events in anyone's life. One of the items that you really can't afford to let slide is your health insurance.Moving home is one of the most stressful events in anyone's life. If that move crosses continents then the stress levels can increase significantly. The logistics of moving your possessions and your family thousands of miles can be a nightmare, and along the way things are bound to get missed off the ‘check list'. One of the items that you really can't afford to let slide is your health insurance. So before you lock the door for the last time and head to the airport for that move abroad, check that you haven't left international health insurance off your essential check list.
Depending on which country you are moving to, there are resources available online that will give you more information as to the level of health insurance you require. The NHS provides guides on healthcare in EU countries and non-EU countries, while if you're moving to the USA, the State Department has a medical insurance and country guide that will provide you with all the information you need. Other countries such as Canada and Australia also supply their own personalised guides to health insurance.
What is expat health insurance?
Even a small accident or illness can be expensive without health insurance. By ensuring that you and your family are fully covered before you make the final move abroad, you have the peace of mind and reassurance that you will receive the best medical care no matter where in the world you are. Expat health insurance is specially designed for people moving from their country of origin to another on a permanent basis. It allows for a smooth transition from one system to another and ensures that the policyholders are not denied medical cover in their new country of residence. In every other way it is the same as a normal health insurance policy, but rather than covering you and your family in your country of origin, it ensures that you are covered for treatment in your new home from the moment you arrive.
Why do I need international health insurance?
There are a variety of difference reasons as to why you might need international health insurance including:
- Your country of residence legally requires you to have international private medical insurance
- The quality of your local country's healthcare system does not meet your standard or needs
- Even if you are able to find good quality local healthcare, it's too expensive
- You may find the local healthcare system confusing or struggle with language barriers
Why shouldn't I just wait until I get to my new home?
You could, but the problem with waiting until you get settled in could mean a delay of days or even weeks, during which time you would have no health cover to pay for any medical bills. That could become very expensive, very quickly and cut into your family's finances at a time when you may need to spend more than usual. Medical bills, even for common prescription medicines, can be extremely expensive in other countries, so not having medical insurance during this time could add to what is what already a stressful period in your life.
In some countries it is also mandatory to have health insurance before taking up residency. Failure to ensure that your family is fully covered for medical emergencies may actually delay your ability to move home or even incur a fine.
What should I look for when buying health insurance?
It's vital to know what to look for when buying international health insurance, as not all policies offer the same sort of coverage. You also need to consider factors such as long-term health issues and what the maximum limit is so that you are sure that you and your family are covered for everything from prescription medicines like asthma inhalers through to emergency surgery or long-term medical treatment. The UK Foreign Office recommends that you should look for a policy that provides at least £2m / €2.5m / $3m in benefit limits.
Make sure it covers the key areas you need, as you cannot predict what treatment you may need. Depending on your circumstances, you may need cover for::
- Chronic conditions such as cancer
- Doctors/specialist visits, prescription drugs, etc
- Emergency evacuation
- Dental & optometrist treatment
You should also check if the plan offers "Paid in full" or only covers a proportion of the costs for certain treatments. It is also wise to decide what deductibles (excess) you are willing to pay. Generally, as with other types of insurance, the higher the deductible then the lower the premium.
How easy is it?
Taking out expat health insurance is as easy as arranging any other form of cover. There are a wide range of policies designed for international travellers and those moving to new locations worldwide. Insurance providers such as CIGNA Global offer comprehensive international health insurance packages specifically designed to help people who are planning to move abroad.
Do a little research before you leave your old home and find out about the requirements and regulations concerning health insurance in your new country and how much cover you and your family will need. The easiest way to make sure that everything is in order is to contact insurance companies that specialize in expat health insurance and tell them where you're moving to and what kind of cover you would like. Their expertise and experience will help you to make sure that your health insurance is in order before you leave. You can then arrive at your new home knowing that your family will get the medical treatment they may need when they need it, and without costing you a fortune in medical bills.
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