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Expats: Don’t Forget Your Health Insurance If You Are Moving

Posted on Jan 12, 2015 by Alex Nellist

According to the UN Human Rights Commission, between 232 and 250 million people live outside of their country of origin. Combine this with findings from a report published by market research company Finnaccord, which found that the number of expats has grown at a compound annual rate of 2.4% each year since 2009, and it’s clear that the number of expats will only continue to increase through 2015.

If you are considering pulling up stakes and moving to another country, you will quickly find that there are a number of important things to consider. Research will often highlight articles that mention things like what you should do about taxes, how to find a job in the country you are considering, how to find a school for your kids, where to find a place to rent, etc. But there is often one crucial thing many articles forget: Health insurance.

Talk to any seasoned expat and they will tell you that there is a good chance you will get sick when you move to your new country. Be it the new diet, the change in climate, or the exposure to a new set of germs and bugs, you will likely need to see a doctor before your first year in the new country is up.

In your home country this visit is normally covered by your health insurance, but expats coming from countries where healthcare is mandatory, or provided by the government, often find out very quickly that they may not be covered immediately by plans in their new home. Without coverage, even in countries with so-called affordable health care, you could be facing a tremendously high bill when all is said and done.

Frightened by the high cost of international healthcare plans?

Research by Pacific Prime has shown that the number of expats leaving their country without international health insurance is as high as 50-75%. When first looking into international health plans, many expats are often shocked at the initial cost of the premiums.

For many countries, it’s not unheard of for plans to carry premiums of USD 2,000 or more for a basic plan. This definitely leads to sticker shock among many expats, especially those who will be moving without typical expat remuneration packages.

Pacific Prime agrees, “Compared with the excitement of moving abroad, medical insurance is usually not top of mind. Many expatriates especially first time movers from countries like Canada, Sweden, the UK, etc., are often unaware that medical treatments outside their home country can run into the tens of thousands of dollars. Without insurance in place this could leave many expatriates in extreme financial difficulty thus having to return home and possibly join a lengthy waiting list for treatment.”

Hospital visits could be worse

Regardless of the country you are moving to, you can expect to pay potentially high costs at hospitals if you don’t have adequate coverage. A recent claim from Dubai, handled by UAE-Medical-Insurance highlights potential costs of an emergency hospital visit.

A mother visited a private hospital with complications related to pregnancy. She ended up needing anesthesia along with surgery and a battery of tests. Once the bill was totaled, she ended up paying over USD 21,100 out of pocket.

While this is an extreme scenario, the fact of the matter is, if you don’t have an international healthcare plan in place before you leave your home country, you will likely have to pay for any medical expenses out of pocket. Expenses which are always going to be high, regardless of the country you move to.

In countries with lower quality health care systems, or where your language isn’t widely spoken, you will need to visit an international or private hospital. These visits are often even more costly for those without healthcare. Even if you sign up for a healthcare plan right before you leave, there could be restrictions including a wait time before you can claim any expenses.

What should I do before I leave?

In order to ensure your move goes as smoothly as possible, the insurance experts, and expats, at Pacific Prime recommend that you, “Get advice on health insurance in the countries you are considering moving to. One of the best ways to do this is to ask your friends, colleagues that are overseas or browse websites giving you information before you move. Insurance should be considered along with housing, schools, etc. because the cost for a family can seem a small fortune. Don’t forget that you are also moving to a new country, medical system, climate, environments, type of costs, etc. and since health is the one thing you should cherish the most, it is absolutely essential you get the right cover in place from the moment you land.”

Therefore, Pacific Prime strongly recommends that you talk to us today, before you move. This is especially true if you will be moving with your family. Our experts, many of whom are expats themselves, can help you find a plan that covers potential costs but is also accepted in the countries you are considering moving too.

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