How Health Insurance Design Affects Access to Care and Costs for Expats

Health insurance and how a plan’s benefits are designed for different needs can be complicated. Add to that access to care and affordability as an expat, and you’ve got an even more significant challenge. 

This piece explores how it’s structured and what you need to know and consider to adequately provide for your medical needs while living or working abroad.

Why Expats Need Health Insurance 

When taking a trip abroad, it’s often necessary to get travel insurance as a precautionary measure while you’re away. These policies typically include medical care in case of an emergency or repatriation in extreme cases.  

When you settle in another country for an extended period, you’ll need a different type of plan. In some nations or republics, specific long-stay visa requirements, like health insurance, are governed by law, and it will form part of your application. 

Another reason is that each society has a different healthcare set-up and structure. It’s bound to be different from what you’re used to, and in most places, private care is exorbitantly expensive. 

Having adequate coverage in place prevents foreigners from placing strain on the public facilities, particularly in developing or third world countries.  

Considerations When Selecting Your Coverage

Much like with a ‘normal’ medical plan, you’ll need to consider a few things before making the final choice. It’s also advisable that you seek advice from a professional broker, your visa services provider, a travel clinic, or other local authorities to make an informed decision.

Who’s Paying and What’s Affordable? 

Settling in another place to retire or to be with your spouse is very different from going there for work. If your company sends you abroad, they may provide coverage on your behalf, which could make it less confusing. If you’re financially dependent or married to a citizen, different rules will apply. 

When you’re retiring or going without earning a regular salary, you’ll need to take your budget and lifestyle into account, too, to be sure what you can afford. Remember to calculate this over time, with annual increases to ensure it’s a sustainable option. 

Who and What Needs to Be Covered? 

If you’re on your own, it’s less intricate. When settling in a new country with a family, the requirements will change and evolve as your kids grow up. 

Take your family’s medical history, past and current, into account. Then compare it to general expenses for routine check-ups and unforeseen eventualities in your new location. 

Depending on the geographical region, you may need additional immunizations and preventative care for malaria, yellow fever, and other diseases. 

If you have any pre-existing conditions, you’ll need to declare these or possibly undergo some tests before the coverage is approved. Take into account that the directives around the use, availability of chronic medications, and the freedom to travel with specific prescription drugs, may also be regulated.

Review and Adjust 

Once you’ve spent some time in your new country, you’ll have a better understanding of your needs and what shortfalls you experienced. It’s advisable to adjust your policy annually to ensure it caters to all your essentials. 

You may also have changes in circumstances like a new baby in the family or an older child leaving to go back home, which influences your plan’s dependents. 

Key Takeaways 

Healthcare insurance is a complicated matter and even more so for expats. Before you set off, do your research and understand the details of what you’ll need. Don’t hesitate to consult travel professionals and local authorities to ensure you’re working with accurate and up to date information. 

Once you’ve got an idea of costs, you can compare plans based on your medical history and individual or family requirements. It’s advisable to do a regular review and adjust as you settle into your new location. Prevention is always better than cure, and even more so when you’re in a foreign place.

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