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Battling high premiums

Health insurance premiums are almost always guaranteed to increase year-on-year. Some years, the inflation may be more than others and providers will have different premium increases from their competitors. Some years, the premium increase of your international health insurance plan can be drastic, making it feel like high premiums have made the plan not worth it. While these increases usually can’t be avoided, there are a number of things you can do to reduce the premium you pay either when renewing an existing plan, or signing up for another plan.

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Reducing premiums when renewing your plan

If you find that the premiums for your existing plan have increased beyond your price threshold, it may feel like you are stuck paying the increase, but there are actually a few things you can do to reduce your high premiums, or at the very least minimize the increase.

First, review your existing plan

Almost every health insurance plan has different coverage options you need to select when you sign up for the plan. It would be a good idea to review what exactly is covered by your plan as there may be some coverage elements that you may not need at this time. These extras will vary by plan, and there are some you may be able to remove, which could lower your premium.

You can also look at the dependents on your plan. It could be that your spouse got a new job in the past year with a solid benefits package, including health insurance, or your children have started at a new school which offers health insurance via the school. If this is the case, it could be worth it to remove them from your plan in order to lower your premiums.  

Another option that has become increasingly popular in the past few years is to introduce a co-pay or deductible to your plan. A co-pay is an agreed upon amount that you will pay each time you submit a claim, while a deductible is an amount you pay each year or for each claim before it can be submitted. By adding one, or both of these to your plan, you will see your premiums decrease. If you are currently healthy and have not had to see a doctor regularly in the past couple of years, this could be a viable solution.  

One thing to be aware of, however, is local regulations regarding health insurance. Take for example Dubai, which has implemented regulations that state that all expats need health insurance before a visa will be issued. This health insurance needs to meet, and cover, specific limits, and if you go below these you will likely see your visa renewal refused. If you live in a country with regulations like these, it would be beneficial to not only know the mandated requirements, but also to not reduce your plan below them.

Second, consider discounts

We don’t mean asking for a discount on your normal premium – most insurers will not normally offer any discounts – but there are other ways to receive a discount. Many insurers offer family plans that come with a form of built in discount. For example, some plans may require you to pay for your first child, while offering free coverage to your other children. Others will offer a discount of up to 25% on children.

The same can be said for group or corporate medical insurance plans. If you own or manage a business, establishing a group plan for your employees is usually a good way to reduce premiums largely because insurers can spread the risk seen with individual plans around, and will offer lower premiums to reflect this. It could be worth checking into transferring an existing plan over to a group plan.

Another option is to look if your plan has what’s called a ‘No Claims Discount’, or NCD. Plans with this type of policy will automatically apply a discount if you go a certain period of time, usually one year, without any claims. With many NCD policies there is an increase in the discount (up to a certain amount) for every year without a claim.

Reducing premiums before you purchase a new plan

If you feel that your existing plan is just not going to work, or that the premiums (even after discounting measures are taken) are too high, then looking for another plan may be a solid strategy. Here are four things to consider when looking for a plan with lower premiums:

Region of coverage

One of the key factors around the ever increasing cost of international health insurance is the fact that health care in places like the US, the UK, Hong Kong, and indeed almost every other country, keep increasing. If you are looking for a new plan, you could find lower premiums if you restrict your coverage by region. For example, if you are not from North America, then a plan that offers worldwide coverage, excluding the US and Canada will have considerably lower premiums.

The same can be said for more regional coverage – a plan with South East Asia only coverage will have lower premiums than full worldwide plans. Just be aware that if you do limit your coverage on a regional-basis, you will not receive coverage for any medical bills incurred outside of this region, so if you travel a fair amount outside of the region a more robust plan may be worth it. 

Type of coverage

Health insurance plans of all types offer numerous types of coverage with the vast majority basing their plans on three of them:

  • Inpatient – coverage for medical care that is deemed to be inpatient only. This usually requires you to be admitted to a hospital for a certain amount of time – usually 24 hours or more.
  • Inpatient and outpatient – Coverage that includes inpatient care and care that is not inpatient, but usually given at medical centers or hospitals. This includes doctors offices and normal checkups.
  • Full coverage – This includes the two types of coverage above along with additional elements including maternity, dental, and more.

Generally speaking, full coverage plans carry the highest premiums, while plans with inpatient only coverage have the lowest. Plans with inpatient and outpatient coverage will have premiums that can be quite spread out, and are usually based on what is covered by the provider.

One way people reduce premiums is by going with a plan that offers a lower level of coverage. For example, if you have a plan that offers full coverage, you could see reduced premiums if you change coverage to inpatient and outpatient only. The same can be said for people who don’t go to the doctor often, an inpatient plan that is really for serious medical conditions only could be more beneficial.

Plan network

Many health insurance providers have a preferred network of doctors and clinics that they work with. This network has agreed to accept payment from the provider directly, meaning that the facility will bill your provider first. While the larger insurers have strong networks in place, there is a chance that your preferred doctor or clinic may not be part of this network. If this is the case, you will usually be required to pay out of pocket and then submit a claim for reimbursement. Should your provider deny this claim (because it is “out of network”) or only pay part of it, you will be left with a bill on top of your premiums. Therefore, it would be a good idea to ensure that your clinic of choice is part of your provider’s network.

What’s more, it would be a good idea to also check how much your doctor charges. Higher cost doctors, such as those in niche markets or private facilities, will usually charge more which means you will need a plan with higher limits to cover care. Plans with higher limits will inevitably have higher premiums, if it is possible, finding a doctor that is cheaper could allow you to reduce your coverage limits, which means lower premiums.

Coverage you actually need

Finally, one way to find a plan with lower premiums is to look for one that offers coverage only for what you need. For example, if you are a male, the chances of you needing maternity coverage are zero, so securing a plan with this type of coverage leads to you paying premiums for claims you will not actually need to make.  

Contact our insurance experts

Finding coverage, or reducing premiums on an existing plan can be an involved process. What we recommend is working with one of the experts at Pacific Prime. We can help you identify your needs and plans that meet them, and even suggest ways you can reduce your premiums. Contact us today to see how we can help.

Content Strategist at Pacific Prime
Jessica Lindeman is a Content Strategist at Pacific Prime. She comes to work every day living and breathing the motto of "simplifying insurance", and injects her unbridled enthusiasm for health and insurance related topics into every article and piece of content she creates for Pacific Prime.

When she's not typing away on her keyboard, she's reading poetry, fueling her insatiable wanderlust, getting her coffee fix, and perpetually browsing animal Instagram accounts.