Choosing International Health Insurance - Some Considerations
The following are some tips on how to select International Health insurance. Much of it is common sense and will be familiar to long term expatriates:
- Deal with a (preferably large) broker who offers a sufficiently wide range of plans - there should be no additional costs attaching to the use of a broker and you are much more likely to find a plan that suits your individual requirements. This is particularly the case if any “special circumstances” apply in your situation. A specific example is Australian expatriates looking for health insurance that provides for re-entry back into Australia without the “waiting periods” that normally apply to new health fund members.
- Easy to mention, but often less easy in practice, but try and arrange health insurance well in advance of proceeding overseas and avoid last minute decisions - they can be both costly and stressful.
- Be wary of purchasing solely on the basis of premiums. You need to closely examine issues of comparable coverage and the size, claims paying ability, the reputation of the insurer and on what basis the insurance is renewed annually.
- If you already have international health cover seek advice from your insurance broker before changing insurers; they may not cover the pre-existing conditions which are covered by your present insurer. The fact that insurance may not extend to pre-existing conditions means that it is extremely important to be careful when choosing your initial insurer, because if you later develop a medical condition you may have little or no ability to move away from that insurer.
- Be very honest regarding any pre-existing conditions and discuss these with your broker, if appropriate. Insurers typically have a very strict attitude to pre-existing medical conditions and there is a risk that you might lose your entire cover and the right to any payments.
- If you are planning to have children in the near future, make sure that your broker is aware of this and carefully check yourself that any health plan covers maternity costs. Many international health plans either don't cover maternity costs at all, or only after a prescribed waiting period on a capped basis. Child birth costs can be very high in a number of countries, particularly if there are complications. Correspondingly, some health plans include maternity benefits as part of the base cover, and you may be able to reduce premiums considerably by excluding maternity cover.
- If you are already pregnant most health plans - both individual and corporate - will view it as a “pre-existing condition” and you will not be covered for these costs although you will be covered for other conditions.
- Medical problems often occur very suddenly and are obviously not limited to occurring in office hours; furthermore, expatriates will often be travelling outside their host and base countries. Consequently, you should satisfy yourself that any insurer has a 24 hour help desk and emergency capability - with English speaking operators. Most insurers will issue you with a wallet card providing your account code and international call numbers - you should carry them with you everywhere.
The information on this webpage is only for background purposes. If you would like to obtain personal advice about International Health cover please complete the Inquiry Form and you will be contacted promptly by an experienced health insurance broker based in Australia.