International health insurance is one of the most important purchases for expatriates. The number of people moving abroad and travelling across borders for work is growing thanks to advances in travel and telecommunications. In fact, there were over 56.8 million expatriates globally at the end of 2017. Top countries for expatriates include Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the US. In contrast, the largest group of expatriates come from India, China and the UK.
Moving abroad creates many new challenges for expatriates. If you are a professional expat for example, you may be searching for a new home or new schools for your family.
When it comes to health however, there’s a lot to consider. As a start, you may look for a family doctor that can speak your language. But for those used to ‘free’ access to healthcare, you will also be facing the stark reality of private healthcare systems, where medical insurance is compulsory. Without private cover, you could find yourself exposed to a sub-standard healthcare system. Private cover, therefore, can be an essential part of moving abroad and international health insurance is often the one to go for.
But what exactly is international health insurance and why is it important, even life-saving, for today’s modern expatriate worker?
What to expect from international health insurance
Also known as ‘international private medical insurance’ (IPMI), these policies offer exceptional levels of protection with annual cover levels of over $1.6m (or £1m) each year. This is a substantial safety net that will cover the vast majority of health-related claims.
Beyond the cover level, international health insurance policies protect a wide range of conditions. Similar to local health insurance plans, you have cover for inpatient stays and some outpatient treatment. But international plans go much further. They cover every-day afflictions such as asthma, to the more serious such as cancer and AIDS. Optical, dental and maternity can also be covered. Western style treatment is the norm but local, cultural healthcare practises – such as Chinese medicine – are now frequently available.
Moreover, they also offer valuable services such as telehealth and access to specialist doctors for second medical opinions.
Access to First-Class Treatment
Well established international health insurers have built a ‘network’ of quality medical facilities around the world. These hospitals and clinics will be of a high standard and/or offer specialist treatment. What’s more, the insurer will be able to settle your medical bills directly with the hospital, clinic or specialist – whether for inpatient or outpatient treatment. Therefore you don’t have to submit a claim and face a long wait for payment.
Insurers will also monitor complex in-patient care of their customers and take action where treatment is sub-standard or inappropriate. In short, if you are covered by an IPMI programme, you can have peace of mind that your insurer will be there for you when it matters.
As a customer, you still have access to all medical facilities, even if they are not in an insurer’s network, and your in-patient bills are more often than not settled directly.
International plans cover you in multiple countries
Here lies the main difference to local health insurance policies. As an expatriate you may be travelling frequently, for work or to return to your home country. By selecting worldwide cover, you can access treatment wherever you are, and whenever you need it. You can also continue coverage if you relocate to a new country after a few years. In these circumstances, the portability of international health insurance cover makes it invaluable.
If you purchase private medical insurance in your home country, international cover protects you wherever you are. Travelling from Singapore to Nigeria and back home via the UAE in a two-week period? No problem. If you are injured or fall ill in any one of those locations, you’ll be able to access quality medical care.
24/7 customer service in your preferred language
Given the global nature of international health insurance, specialist customer service is fundamental. If an expatriate is injured in a remote part of Africa they want to be able to be able to contact their insurer quickly and easily – and talk to someone in their language – to get the help they need.
Fortunately, insurers are set-up to handle this. You can contact them 24 hours a day as well as submit and manage your claims online.
Networks are comprehensive so the right level of care is never too far away. For added peace of mind, if a medical facility is unable to provide the treatment you need, insurers are able to evacuate you to the nearest appropriate medical centre by ambulance, helicopter or aeroplane. Your health is their number one priority.
Not just for expatriates
The ability to access top-quality care around the world means that international health insurance is often of interest to wealthy locals – especially those in developing countries where healthcare systems are not to the same standard as more advanced nations.
International health insurance allows you to travel to another country for specialist care, in the knowledge that you are continually covered for your health needs.
Expatriates have a lot to think about when they move away from home, but health should be top of the list. Buying the right level of international health insurance is one way to ensure peace of mind. Therefore, if something should happen hundreds or thousands of miles from home, the necessary medical care will be right where you need it.
Riviera-Expat is a specialist insurance broker operating in the International Private Medical Insurance market.
We source excellent health insurance covers for expatriates around the world every day. Contact us today to find out more about international health insurance and find the right plan for you and your family.