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Expat Investor : May June 2009
EXPAT HEALTH Who’s benefiting from the bottom line? A healthcare insurance policy is worth only as much as the benefits it contains. But what are the most essential ingredients of a plan that won’t let you down when you need it most? Check out the bottom line in your plan with what the experts recommend. sought, Expat A discovers that although the company scheme includes his spouse it does not offer a benefit covering maternity care. Expat A and his wife are looking to start a family, which means maternity cover will be an important top-up benefit to seek from an international healthcare insurance provider. Dr Sneh Khemka is the Medical Director with Bupa International and he offers Expat Investor readers the following advice when weighing up which benefits are necessary. “Becoming an expat is an exciting prospect for many people, but it can also represent a challenge, with so much to plan and think about. Healthcare systems and the quality of medical facilities can vary enormously, and one of the most important and often forgotten aspects of moving abroad is ensuring you know what to do if you fall ill and how to get emergency medical treatment. “Local private health insurance Emergency evacuation, routine dental care, complementary therapies, cover for an adult accompanying a sick child during treatment... what are the bottom line benefits an expatriate must have on the top line of their healthcare insurance shopping list? How do you set about unpicking a healthcare plan to ensure you are protected by the most appropriate cover? One expat’s vital benefit for inclusion in an international healthcare policy will be viewed by another as a wasteful frippery. When it comes to finding the right healthcare insurance policy with benefits that are meaningful to you and your family, nothing beats a careful comparison between a handful of plans before signing on the dotted line. Benefits is the label given to what is on offer within a healthcare insurance plan. Benefits should include mundanities such as drugs and dressings, GP consultations, hospital beds and so on; but the label also lists other aspects of cover such as the allowance for an adult to accompany a sick child during hospitalisation, emergency evacuation, alternative therapy treatments and, even, local burial. Benefits can broadly be tracked by comparing two types of cover – basic and comprehensive. Basic cover will be just that – a plan sold without extra benefits but one which will cover a policyholder for all hospital services as an inpatient. Benefits under basic cover should include local ambulances, drugs and dressings and consultations with specialists. A step up from basic cover is what’s called comprehensive cover. By and large, this label covers outpatient as well as inpatient care. However, policy holders must read the list of benefits carefully and not assume any benefit is included unless specified. Particular attention should be paid to benefits such as dental care and various treatments such as physiotherapy, to ensure you know what is and what isn’t covered. Check also on the number of outpatient visits to a specialist care centre allowed in any one year. And, finally, there are benefits which can be bought as standalone cover that supports a packaged plan. To provide an example of when this might be is available in many countries and, at first glance, may appear to be an attractive option. But the cover may not always be appropriate. Some local companies, for example, impose a minimum age at which people can take out a medical insurance plan, which means that children are exempt from cover. “An international health insurance plan, specifically designed for expats, provides comprehensive cover for routine and emergency treatment, irrespective of age, both in the country of residence and elsewhere in the world. So should local facilities not be able to meet your healthcare needs, you can travel to the nearest centre of medical excellence or another country for treatment. “In the rare circumstances they are needed, private and air ambulances can be costly and difficult to arrange, particularly in less developed countries with poor healthcare facilities – making the addition of evacuation and repatriation cover essential. Language can be another problem, so having access to people who speak the local language and are experienced in dealing with medical emergencies is also important. “When buying international health insurance cover, make sure your provider has a good reputation and the health and medical knowledge and experience to help you and your family when you need it most.” We also asked AXA PPP Healthcare to suggest what an expat’s considerations should be when buying international health insurance. Firstly, says the company, think about where you will be able to receive the required care, not only for routine treatment, but also in case of emergencies whilst you are away from home. Most insurers offer varying levels of geographical cover for you to choose from. Geographical regions will usually be broken down into three main categories – Europe, worldwide excluding USA and Canada, and worldwide. However, some insurers may have smaller, more limited areas, so it is always important to choose the option most suitable to you. “Out-of-area cover is an additional benefit provided by many insurers, giving you the reassurance that you will be covered in countries outside your chosen area of cover. For example, you can receive treatment in Thailand even if you have European cover, whether you are travelling on business or for pleasure. “While there are limits to the amount of benefit you can claim, usually out-of-area cover provides you with both in-patient and outpatient cover for emergency treatment of sudden illness. “Check the opening hours of customer service and support helplines and whether they are Is your international medical insurer the industry leader? 12 EXPAT INVESTOR ● May/June 2009 expatinvestor.com We’ve won the ‘Best International Private Medical Insurance Provider’ award 8 times in the last 9 years as voted by independent brokers. Because they believe that we are, quite simply, the best at what we do! Bupa International Healthcare. Everywhere. +44 (0) 1273 718 304 www.bupa-intl.com
March April 2009