International Health Insurance in Bhutan for Expats
Health Insurance in Bhutan for Expats and Foreigners
Expats are strongly recommended to purchase international health policies during their time in Bhutan to safeguard their health and their finances. There are a few public hospitals that offer free healthcare to expats in the country, but the standards of care can be low quality.
International health insurance offers global coverage, customizable plans, and peace of mind to expats in Bhutan. Whether your stay in Bhutan is for the short term or the long term, the insurance experts at Pacific Prime have you covered with a wide selection of plans.
The short guide below provides useful information about healthcare and insurance in Bhutan, as well as health insurance options for expats living there. Read on to learn more, or click here to obtain a no-obligation, free quote.
The Healthcare System in Bhutan
The healthcare system is run by the Ministry of Health and provides free universal health care for all Bhutan citizens. There is practically no privatization of any physicians or clinics, except for one private health clinic in the capital, Thimphu.
The best health facility in Bhutan is the Jigme Dorji Wangchuk National Referral Hospital in Thimphu, where all patients including tourists can receive free basic medical treatment as well as advanced services such as surgical and emergency treatment.
A disadvantage of free healthcare in Bhutan is overworked and understaffed doctors and specialists. They also lack some medical resources such as medicines, and wait times can be long. Urban areas have a low doctor-to-patient ratio, with rural areas being much worse.
Treatment for more complicated illnesses and procedures such as cancer and neurosurgery are unavailable in Bhutan. Patients will have to be transported to better medical facilities in India and Thailand if they wish to receive treatment. It is difficult to find medical care beyond basic health services outside the major urban areas.
Access to Medical Facilities for Expats
Expats can access medical facilities in Bhutan by visiting any public clinic or hospital. Jigme Dorji Wangchuk National Referral Hospital treats expats and tourists for free, but most public hospitals will not. Without a private health insurance policy, expats will be paying out of pocket.
Most healthcare facilities will be closer to urban areas, leaving rural areas without adequate healthcare access. Expats spending most of their time in rural Bhutan should take care to select an international health insurance policy that covers medical evacuation.
This will ensure that they are taken to the closest adequate healthcare center in the case of a medical emergency.
Health Insurance Options for Expats in Bhutan
Expats have the option of purchasing international health insurance during their time in Bhutan. Expats looking to stay long-term in Bhutan should purchase an international health insurance policy, while those only visiting short-term can purchase travel insurance.
International Health Insurance
International health insurance plans offer expats in Bhutan a wide selection of customizable benefits and global coverage. Plans can be tailored to fit expats’ needs according to their lifestyle and situation, and expats can choose coverage options based on factors like age and health.
General coverage in international health insurance plans include:
- Inpatient and outpatient services
- Medical emergency and evacuation services
Additional riders and benefits can be purchased and added to plans to make the best fit for any expat in Bhutan, including dental, vision, and preventative care.
Expats visiting Bhutan on vacation or other short-term travel can use a travel insurance policy to protect them from specific financial risks and losses that may arise during their trip. These losses may include lost luggage, canceled flights, and emergency medical services.
The right travel insurance will depend on your budget, your planned activities, and your specific health needs. Additionally, travel insurance can offer medical emergency coverage and medical evacuation. This is especially necessary for expats in rural Bhutan without adequate healthcare access.
COVID-19 coverage is also on some travel insurance plans, offering financial coverage for tests, treatments, and all services relating to the illness.
At Pacific Prime, we are partnered with some of the world’s top travel insurance companies, like Vumi and IMG Global. Reach out to us or check out our free plan comparison tool to hear more about top travel insurance plans
International Health Insurance in Bhutan - Plans and Coverage
Among the best international health insurance providers catering to expats in Bhutan are Aetna, NOW Health, and more. Below, we'll provide a concise overview of each provider, and their travel insurance plans if they offer any.
Aetna offers expats in Bhutan flexible and customizable benefits plans with additional options for medical, vision, dental, and pharmacy coverage. They cater to expats looking for long-term healthcare solutions through their Pioneer plans.
These plans range in coverage and limits with five levels of coverage to choose from. The basic coverage for their plans includes:
- Inpatient treatment and outpatient treatment (up to 90 days)
- Emergency medical evacuation
- Rehabilitation up to 120 days
- Emergency dental and optical treatment
NOW Health International offers expats abroad in Bhutan comprehensive health insurance solutions. They offer two categories of global plans: SimpleCare and WorldCare. SimpleCare plans are intended as budget-friendly, with coverage for medical emergencies and evacuation.
WorldCare provides a more comprehensive solution to expat healthcare. WorldCare plans come in different tiers with different coverage, but the shared benefits across the plans are:
- In-patient and day-patient care
- Organ transplant
- Evacuation and repatriation
- Cancer treatment
Cigna Global provides flexible insurance plans to expats in Bhutan with 24/7 access to a customer care team. While they don’t offer typical travel insurance, they offer a Cigna Close Care flexi plan for short-term expat health insurance. This plan is perfect for trips under a year.
Cigna has Silver, Gold, and Platinum plans with different levels of coverage and limits. All three of these plans share several common key coverage benefits:
- Inpatient and day-patient treatments
- Cancer treatments
- Accidental death or total permanent disability compensation
Bupa Global offers expats in Bhutan tailor-made plans and guaranteed lifetime renewal. They stopped selling travel insurance in 2021, but still provide excellent international health insurance solutions to expats looking to stay in Bhutan longer-term.
Some of the shared features of Bupa’s plans include:
- Inpatient coverage
- Emergency evacuation and repatriation
- 24/7 access to medical advice through the Bupa Global service center
- Direct access to specialists without referral
MSH International has almost 50 years of experience providing health insurance for expats and their families. They offer single-trip and multi-trip travel insurance, as well as short-term and long-term international health insurance plans.
Their single-trip travel insurance covers emergency medical coverage up to $7,000,000, with their multi-trip plan covering up to $10,000,000. Their international health insurance plans differ in coverage and limits, but some basic features across their plans are:
- Inpatient treatment
- Cancer treatment
- Emergency evacuation
Geoblue offers an Xplorer health insurance plan that comes in Essential or Premier. These plans were created for expats traveling from the United States for business, leisure, or study trips. Expats can choose plans that include the United States in their coverage or not.
They also offer travel insurance policies. There’s Voyager, their single-trip policy, and Trekker, their multi-trip policy. Both plans have different coverage and limit options.
The shared features across their long-term Xplorer plans are:
- Diagnostic lab work and X-rays
- Inpatient medical emergencies
- Emergency evacuation and repatriation
- Yearly physicals
AXA global health insurance is a great choice for expats in Bhutan with its range of differing coverage and customizable additional benefits. They offer short-term international health insurance plans, for trips averaging around 3-11 months.
For long-term health plans, they offer five categories of coverage with their Foundation, Standard, Comprehensive, Prestige, and Prestige Plus plans. Some examples of shared coverage by all AXA insurance plans include:
- Hospital charges and surgery
- Emergency coverage
- Medical evacuation and repatriation
- Cancer treatment
- Ambulance transport
Additional Benefits and Coverage
- Dental: Additional benefits can cover dental check-ups, cleanings, and major dental procedures.
- Maternity and family coverage: Expats planning to start or expand their families can tailor international health insurance plans to include coverage for prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, and additional benefits for newborns.
- Preventive care: Certain plans offer regular health checkups, screenings, vaccinations, and wellness programs, aiding expats in maintaining their well-being during their adventures abroad.
Expats in Bhutan with pre-existing conditions may have more limited choices when purchasing an international insurance policy, but viable solutions exist. Options include selecting a plan with a pre-existing condition exclusion, a moratorium, or coverage with loading.
- Exclusion: Choosing a plan with an exclusion means that the insurer won't reimburse the policyholder for medical bills related to the pre-existing condition.
- Moratorium: In this scenario, the insurance company provides health coverage but excludes pre-existing conditions. Instead, there is a waiting period, typically around 24 months, during which the company assesses the pre-existing condition before deciding on coverage.
- Coverage with loading: Some insurance companies may offer coverage for pre-existing conditions but at higher premiums. It's important to note that not all pre-existing conditions qualify for this type of coverage, and not all insurance providers offer this option.
Retirees Seeking Health Insurance in Bhutan
Retirees settling in Bhutan should choose an international health insurance plan that provides extensive and adaptable coverage tailored to their specific needs. This may encompass benefits like cancer screenings, support for chronic conditions, and preventive health services.
Contact Pacific Prime to explore our range of international insurance plans designed for retirees in Bhutan. We are committed to assisting expats in finding a plan that offers outstanding coverage tailored to their needs, along with access to the finest private healthcare facilities.
Health and Safety Tips for Foreigners in Bhutan
Foreigners visiting Bhutan can stay safe by taking great care on the roads, avoiding bug bites, and ascending slowly when hiking. Bhutan is known worldwide for its happy population, so crime stays low, but there are other risks to be aware of.
Poor road conditions are a big danger that besets tourists and citizens alike. The mountainous terrain and lack of maintenance make landslides, steep drop-offs, blind curves, and falling rocks a real risk to Bhutan roads.
To mitigate these risks, tourists are required by the government to organize their trips through recognized tour companies and travel in groups.
Dengue Fever is transmitted through bites from infected mosquitos, and results in flu-like symptoms. To avoid the fever, expats should do their best to prevent bug bites. Some examples of prevention methods are using the correct bug spray, and sleeping with a mosquito net.
Other possible health risks include Acute Mountain Sickness or altitude sickness. Always ascend slowly when trekking, avoid grueling activities in the first 24 hours, and avoid alcohol consumption at high altitudes.
Expats can enjoy Bhutan with peace of mind when they purchase an international health insurance policy. With global coverage and customizable benefits, these plans will aid expats during their time in Bhutan and across the world.
Pacific Prime has over 20 years of experience in providing insurance solutions across the globe. We are one of the world’s leading global insurance brokerages and have extensive experience in helping expats find plans that fit their needs at a price right for them.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need health insurance for Bhutan?
An important reason expats need health insurance during their time in Bhutan is for medical evacuation coverage. Rural Bhutan has very limited access to medical facilities, and it is common for expats to have to be flown to a neighboring country for treatment.
How much does international health insurance cost?
International health insurance ranges in price based on factors like age, health, countries included in areas of cover, and more. For a closer look into international health insurance prices, check out Pacific Prime’s guide on the topic.