How to properly choose your health insurance

There you are, comfortably set in your new residence, all boxes opened with its contents already on shelfs and you have found the right school for your children. You still need to choose a health insurance. Most times an expat doesnā€™t benefit from social insurances of his country of origin while living abroad and that will affect his health insurance as well. Medical fees may reach large sums for which it is critical for an expat to subscribe to a health insurance.

People often choose an insurance based on price and amounts covered. They will also decide on the kind of cover (in-patient only, out-patient, dental care, optical care, maternity, etc.) However, whether you choose your insurance online or you approach an advisor, you should check on the following 7 tips:

  • Raise of premiums based on reimbursement

Insurance premiums will rise each year because of inflation. Added to that, raises depending on the amounts reimbursed by insurance companies. Some insurance companies will consider the sum of all raises from their whole portfolio of clients in order to establish a general premium raise. While others will establish individual raises depending on the claim ratio for each client. In the latter scenario, it is important to consider that in case of serious treatment (such as cancer), the insured may see a notable raise of premium when he renews his contract.

  • Age category

Insurance companies have different categories of ages for their premium, hence every client will switch to a different category every 5 to 10 years. If the expat is going to stay for a long term in his new residence country, it is worth analysing the premium raises based on age categories in order to avoid bad surprises. The raise is particularly significant after the age of 55. An insurance may be cheaper than another one when you are below 55 and becomes gradually much more expensive than the latter afterward.

  • Guarantee of renewal

This point concerns mostly expats of a certain age who wish to retire abroad. It is advised then to look whether the insurance company guarantees the renewal of contracts for life. Otherwise the cover ends when reaching an age limit (usually between 75 and 85 years old) and it will be too late to change insurers.

  • Pre-existing conditions

Generally, insurers do not cover pre-existing conditions meaning all treatments, conditions or symptoms that existed prior to subscribing to the insurance company. Some insurances though, may accept covering pre-existing conditions that do not represent grave risk for a premium loading. Some others may offer a moratorium where if the client is not treated, taking medicine or having a consultation for the pre-existing conditions during 2 years, the latter will be covered afterward.Ā 

  • Portability of insurance

This is particularly important for short-term and middle-term expats as they may relocate at least once. Some insurances will only cover a specific region or even country and in case of terminating his residency in such country, the contract will as well be terminated. The insured has then to subscribe with a new insurance in the new country and all treatments reimbursed by the previous insurance company will be considered as pre-existing conditions. It is convenient to choose an insurance that allows keeping oneā€™s contract while changing countries.

  • Waiting period

Some insurers will apply a waiting period depending on the kind of treatment and/or illness, extending from 30 days to as much as 12 months. The client has to look over this detail in order to avoid bad surprises.

  • Direct billing

The fees of a hospitalization are usually paid by the insurer (direct billing) as long as this one has been notified with anticipation. This is not the case for outpatient fees. Some insurers may have direct agreements with the hospitals to cover the fees after a consultation with a practitioner or outpatient treatment allowing you to have a direct billing system. Some others will require you to pay upfront and fill a claim form afterward. Of course outpatient direct billing will have an effect over the premiums.

In Conclusion next time you need to choose a health insurance or renew a contract, ask these questions to yourself or to your advisor!