When buying Global Health Insurance, what should you think about ?
People prefer not to think about catastrophes or illness hoping that it will not happen to them. Who will pay the medical bills if something does happen? If the illness is serious bills start to add up, you could go to a Government hospital but do you really want to stay several days or even weeks there? The public wards are crowded, you will have to deal with the food and most of the staff will not speak English? What if your wife or children had to go through the same thing? If you do not have a good global health insurance plan then you will have no choice but to put up with what you can afford.
Comprehensive global medical insurance plans are designed to cover most or all of your costs. You can select where you are treated, choose your doctor or surgeon and have choice over when and where you will be treated.
Many companies offer medical insurance plans to their employees but how good is your cover? Most people do not really understand their company health plan. After all, the company will take care of everything, right? To check you should ask a few questions about your plan:
- How much does your company health plan cover you for? Hospitalisation? Doctor visits? Medication? Does the plan have limits on treatment?
- Does it cover all of your family? Is your partner covered if you are not married? Does cover extend to your children?
- Does it cover you locally or Worldwide? Will it cover you for treatment in another country or your home country if you want?
- Is maternity cover included? Usually this is not covered in company plans?
- If you leave the company can you keep the insurance plan in force? If not then what happens with any existing medical conditions? What if your wife is already pregnant?
What is Global Medical Insurance?
Quite simply, Global medical insurance plans will pay for you to have private treatment at the hospital or doctors of your choice. You will be covered for accident or illness and normally have emergency evacuation cover to transport you to the nearest medical facility or your home country if suitable treatment is not available locally.
Plans may also cover long term chronic condition, maternity, (including cover of newborn children), dental, optical and wellness health checks.
Plans will usually cover you globally and will be fully portable if you need to relocate to another country, back home or perhaps to a new company. This means if you relocated you can keep the coverage in force. If not, this may present significant issues since any pre-exiting medical conditions are then unlikely to be covered and waiting periods for things such as maternity may re apply. Most medical insurance problems arise when individuals try to join health plans with existing medical conditions. If you are joining a large company then the condition can generally be covered but smaller company schemes or individual plans will almost certainly exclude the condition.
Most insurers offer different levels of cover to suit all budgets and needs. Basic plans offer only hospitalisation and emergency treatment while Premium plans covering almost everything. Maternity and dental are normally offered on Premium plans or as an optional add-on. The best plans in the market will be guaranteed renewable for life and premiums will never be increased because of your health condition or claims history.
International Maternity Insurance
For most expatriates the cost of having a baby is pretty high and is likely to be their largest medical expense. Some quick research will show you the costs in the various hospitals. A routine delivery will cost +USD10,000, and if the delivery is by Caesarean or has complications the final costs can be much higher. Almost all insurers can offer plans for childbirth and complications of pregnancy. You will typically have to wait a year before you can claim so careful planning is needed. Do not expect the insurers to cover you if you are already pregnant! Some plans will also offer cover for birth defects and congenital abnormalities, but this is not so common so you will have to search around to find a plan that will do this.
Do I pay for anything?
Most global medical plans offer an Excess (sometime called a deductible). This excess is deducted from each claim for a course of treatment for a specific illness or injury. Insurers usually allow you to select the excess, and the higher the excess the lower the insurance premium. If you have young children who may visit the doctor frequently then an excess could turn out to be expensive. If you are the type of person who rarely visits the doctor taking an excess can lower the premium but mean all costly medical conditions are covered.
Claiming medical expenses can be time consuming and slow, try searching for a plan with direct settlement. Direct settlement means you can visit doctors and hospitals without paying any fees, the medical bills are paid directly to the insurer. This can be very important in some countries i.e. China , where communication and administration to an overseas insurance company can be troublesome.
How to choose?
So, what level of cover do you require? There are a bewildering array of insurers and plans, and the policy fine print can be hard to understand. It is therefore important to seek independent professional advice. Below are a few questions you should be asking when looking for a medical plan.
- Does it fully cover hospitalisation? Surgeon, anesthetist, accommodation? Does it offer a private or semi-private room?
- Does it cover routine doctor visits? If so are you paying a premium for this, do you really need this level of cover if you do not visit doctors very often?
- What is the total limit of coverage? This is the total plan cover and can range from a few hundred thousand USD per lifetime up to several million USD per year.
- Is maternity cover included? If maternity is covered what are the limits and exclusions on the cover?
- What are the exclusions? For example, most do not cover for things like cosmetic surgery and some do not cover sports injuries like skiing?
- Does it cover emergency evacuation? Who do you speak to in an emergency?
- How do you make claims? Does the insurer have direct settlement where you live?
- Are there restrictions on age or pre-existing conditions?
- What is the financial security of the company?
- How do you pay the premium and is there an excess?
- Does the plan cover Chronic Conditions?
- Does it offer worldwide cover? Will it cover you when you return to your home country?
- Is the plan renewable for life and will premiums increase if you become ill?
After you have identified your needs then you need to find the right plan. There are many excellent private global medical insurance plansavailable to expatriates. Some of the leading international medical insurers are: Allianz Worldwide Care, William Russell, IHI, GoodHealth, Interglobal and BUPA International. Each insurer has its own specific areas of competitive advantage so it is worthwhile taking time to find the right company. It is not advisable to change your medical insurer often, so picking the right company first time is important.
Global health insurance companies can often request insurers to tailor plans to specifically match their needs and levels of cover can be offered to employees depending on seniority. Group schemes can often get discounts, coverage for pre-existing medical conditions and removal of waiting period for things such as maternity.
Living overseas can be an exciting and rewarding experience but there are lots of uncertainties. Accidents and illness don’t always happen to other people and without careful preparation you and your family may be at risk. Insurance is important so ask the right questions before something happens not after. Having peace of mind that you and your family can get the best care come what may will make living overseas all the more enjoyable.
For free advice and quotations on global health insurance all around the world please feel free to contact us.
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