If you plan to move abroad for an extended period, maybe even permanently, you're likely looking forward to sunnier climes and a more relaxed way of life. However, there are several things you must do to ensure your move goes smoothly. One thing at the top of your priority list should be to ensure you have access to medical care, as you would here in the UK.
Your rights will be different when you move, as you won't be a citizen of the country you are living in. That means you may not get the same healthcare access you're used to via the NHS. Getting the right insurance means you don't have to worry about that.
What is expat health insurance?
Expat health insurance, also known as international health insurance, is designed to provide medical coverage to individuals living and working outside their home country.
The coverage typically includes a range of benefits, such as inpatient and outpatient medical care, emergency medical treatment, prescription drugs, medical evacuation, and repatriation.
Expats often require this type of insurance as they may not have access to the healthcare system of the country they are living in, or the coverage may not meet their needs. Expats may also require their coverage to cater for travel to other countries.
Expatriate health insurance policies are usually offered by private insurance companies and can be customised to fit the needs and budget of an individual and their family. The cost of the policy will depend on several factors, such as the level of coverage, age, health status, and destination country.
Why do I need expat insurance?
Here are a few reasons why you may need expat insurance
Your current medical insurance may not cover you abroad
Most domestic health insurance plans do not cover medical expenses outside your home country. Therefore, if you get sick or injured while living abroad, you may be responsible for paying all medical costs out of pocket without any reimbursement from your insurance provider.
Different healthcare systems and standards
Healthcare systems and standards vary widely from country to country. In some countries, medical treatment can be costly; in others, the quality of care may differ from the standards you are used to in the UK or elsewhere. Expat insurance can ensure you have access to quality medical care when needed.
As an expat, you may be more prone to certain travel-related risks, such as accidents, illnesses, or even emergency medical evacuations. Expat insurance can cover these risks and protect you against unexpected events.
Ultimately, expat insurance gives you peace of mind while leading your expat life. It can help ensure you have cover in your new country and are protected against unforeseen medical expenses while living and working abroad.
When will I need it?
You may need expat health insurance if you plan to live and work abroad for an extended period, typically more than six months. An existing domestic health insurance plan may cover you for up to six months, but check your policy documents! You may also need international health insurance if you plan to travel frequently to other countries, as your domestic health insurance may only provide coverage in your home country or another single country or region.
Additionally, even if you are eligible for healthcare coverage in your new country, it may only cover some of the medical expenses you may incur. For example, you may also need to access a medical facility for mental health reasons or ongoing check-ups. Plus, while it may not concern you, your insurance coverage could even ensure there is a medical provider in your new country should you require maternity care.
How is expat health insurance different to travel insurance?
Expat health insurance and travel insurance are both designed to provide medical coverage to individuals who are outside of their home country, but they differ in their scope and purpose.
While expat health insurance is for more extended periods, travel insurance is typically intended for short-term travel, usually up to a few months at most, and is meant to cover a range of travel-related issues such as trip cancellation or interruption, lost luggage, or travel delays, in addition to providing medical coverage.
While travel insurance usually limits the duration of coverage and may not cover pre-existing medical conditions, expat health insurance may offer comprehensive coverage for pre-existing conditions and can be customised to fit the needs of the individual or family.
Is expat insurance and medical insurance the same thing?
Expat and medical insurance are not necessarily the same thing, but expat insurance may include medical insurance as a component of its coverage.
Medical insurance provides coverage for medical expenses incurred due to illness or injury. Medical insurance can be domestic or international and may be purchased as a standalone policy or as part of a larger insurance package.
While expat insurance may include medical insurance, it is typically a more comprehensive package of coverage tailored to the specific needs of individuals living abroad, including coverage for travel, emergency medical evacuation, and other benefits.
Do international health insurance plans cover pre-existing conditions?
International health insurance plans may cover pre-existing conditions, but it depends on the specific policy and the severity of the condition. In addition, there may be specific exclusions and restrictions, like a waiting period before coverage for the illness begins or higher premiums due to the increased risk of medical expenses.
In some cases, the coverage for pre-existing conditions may be limited to emergency medical treatment only or subject to an additional deductible. Your expat health insurance plan should make it clear from the outset what you are and aren't covered for. That's why reviewing the terms and conditions of any international health insurance policy you are considering is crucial, particularly if you have a pre-existing condition.
That said, international health insurance plans can still be indispensable for expats, even those with pre-existing medical conditions that require ongoing treatment or management. Researching and comparing policies from different health insurance companies to find the one that best meets your needs and budget is vital. It doesn't need to be a hassle either - you can easily get a quote online.
Do I need life insurance and expat cover?
Life insurance provides financial protection for your loved ones in the event of your death by paying out a lump sum to your beneficiaries. If you have dependents who rely on your income to support them, life insurance can help ensure they are financially secure if something happens to you.
Whether you need both types of insurance will depend on your circumstances. For example, if you are an expat with dependents who rely on your income, having both life and expat insurance can provide comprehensive coverage for you and your loved ones.
However, if you do not have dependents, then life insurance may not be necessary, and you may only need expat insurance to ensure that you have access to quality medical care while living and working abroad.
It's always a good idea to speak with a financial advisor or insurance professional to determine what types and amounts of insurance coverage are suitable for you based on your needs and circumstances.
Buying expat insurance
Getting expat insurance may not be high on your list of things to do before you emigrate. The prospect of a warmer and more relaxed lifestyle may mean there are more exciting things to think about. However, it is an absolute must-have and, therefore, a must-do.
Hopefully, you won't have to use your insurance when living abroad, but it can be a big money saver if you do. Medical expenses can be sky-high and hard to cover all at once. If you have the right insurance, you can be sure you never have to incur debt to pay for medical attention.
That’s crucial as you never know what will happen to you in the future. So ensuring you can protect yourself financially against nasty occurrences could make all the difference.