When traveling to a country with an inefficient public healthcare system, a private health insurance plan becomes an absolute necessity. However, a health insurance plan can also be a significant investment, and it can be tricky to balance your financial situation with your health care needs.
The key to keeping costs low is to find the plan that is tailored specifically for your needs. Although this process can be difficult with the sheer number of insurance providers and plans on the market, everyone works under very similar rules, and there are a few things to keep in mind that will help you find the best health insurance plan without breaking the bank:
Type of Benefits
Choosing the benefits that only apply to you is a quick way to reduce your premiums. For example, if you are not planning to have a baby soon, then you do not need maternity cover. If you only go to the dentist once every one or two years, you don´t need to buy dental cover. These two kinds of cover can significantly increase your premium, and it's important to consider whether you even need them. At the same time, however, if you are planning to get pregnant and don´t want to pay all medical bills on your own, it is important to remember that most insurers only cover maternity after a 12 month waiting period.
Many financial advisers recommend investing in a good health plan before you hit 30, though you might not need all types of age-related cover when you're young. If you are a young and healthy person and almost never go to doctor, you probably only need inpatient cover. However, it if you are over 40 years old and already have some pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, it would be best in the long term to invest in "pre-ex" and outpatient cover. The best plan is one that lets you incorporate different kinds of cover as time goes by.
Insurers have different prices according to the client's age because as you get older the financial risk is higher. Premiums for international health insurance will increase as you get older, along with the inflation of medical expenses.
If you plan on visiting one of the destinations with a high-level medical healthcare system such as London or Singapore, then you probably don´t need emergency evacuation. However, if you are living in more remote areas with lesser available medical treatments, emergency evacuation is an extreme concern considering the costs (can start at USD 100,000), and you will want to ensure this is included in your plan.
Your geographical area of cover is also an important point to consider. The most obvious example being that premiums will be much less expensive if you don´t include the USA for treatment. There are also some plans offering very specific geographical cover for those in Africa, South east Asia or Europe who are looking to save in premiums by not including cover in unneeded parts of the world.
Frequency of Payment
When paying your premiums, you can usually choose to pay monthly or once a year. By dividing the full amount of the policy in 12 months or quarterly payments, the figure to pay each time may seem low. However, with frequent payments, the insurance company usually adds a percentage of the total amount to cover the added administrative work. Opting for yearly payments instead of monthly can help you to save up to 20% on your premium.
Choosing the right currency can also lower your costs by 10%. Fluctuations in currency exchange throughout the duration of the policy affects both premiums and benefits and reimbursements.
Length of Travel
Paying for a full year's policy can be unnecessary depending on the situation. If you're planning on visiting one or more countries for up to one year, a travel plan is a more suitable purchase. Typically a travel plan is cheaper than an annual or short-term policy. It also typically includes emergency evacuation to the best medical facility or to the client's home country to receive the proper healthcare in case of a serious accident or illness.
Usually an international health insurance plan can last for a lifetime with the options to renew each year. Maybe, however, you are not sure how long you're going to be abroad, or maybe you just left a job and expect to get another one in a few months but don´t want to stay uninsured in that period. For those situations in like these, you can ask for short term insurance options.
Bupa, for example, has introduced a new plan in September named Bupa Flex, which allows clients to purchase outpatient and inpatient treatment for 3-11 months in and outside your country of residency or home country. It acts exactly like a normal health insurance plan with regards to where you can go for treatment, without the need to be taken back to your home country (like a travel plan) if you prefer to be treated in your local area.
Discounts and Deductibles
Another excellent way to reduce cost is by sharing. In any insurance policy you have the option for a deductible or co-pay to reduce the premiums. If you choose to share the cost with the insurer in this way, you can save a lot of money, whether you need a long term treatment or if you don´t make any claim at all. Some insurers also give discounts in family plans. Some others could give a renewal discount if you don´t claim for medical treatment.
It is very important that you research your insurance company. Buying from a good insurer with stable premiums is better than buying a cheap policy with a company that could not answer you when you need it the most. However, with so many options on the market, it is still the best decision to keep these tips and mind and receive expert advice to guide further you in your decision-making process.