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Expat Investor : October 2008
HEALTHCARE Which benefit list will benefit you the most? When comparing healthcare plans here’s how to select cover that will be most appropriate for your needs. Healthcare insurance cover can be bought in tiers. At the bottom there’s standard care – enough cover, one hopes, to cover any emergency surgery and/or treatment which might be necessary for the unfortunate. Stepping up a tier, the treatment covered becomes more expansive. But to get the full works, expats have to look at the top of the range cover – plans which are labelled such as special, gold, premier plus, and prestige. But even on this tier, there are several key areas of cover to check up on. Here we have listed three; emergency evacuation, complementary medicines and elective treatment. In the first instance, most, if not all expats, will find that emergency evacuation is a must-have essential. The second benefit covers an area of medicine which increasingly is called upon by doctors and patients alike. If you are prescribed a complementary therapy or medicine to aid recovery from an illness or injury, it is wise to ensure that this is a benefit covered on your plan. And with the third, electing where in the world you are treated has become a hot issue for many expats. Wings of mercy is an apt way to describe emergency evacuation. It’s one matter covering against unexpected illness or injury, but quite another imagining every last detail of how such misfortune will occur. And when it has happened, many expats have been thankful that they opted to include an airlift to the most appropriate hospital for treatment. Now, the most crucial point about such cover is no expat ever knows just when medical evacuation could be called upon. One international medical insurance company’s records show that every month an average of 20 planholders are taken out of danger from places as diverse as deepest Africa and downtown Oslo to receive urgent medical treatment that is unavailable locally. Medical evacuation is a benefit within healthcare policies in the same way that inpatient and outpatient benefits are itemised. Its full title used by healthcare providers is ‘emergency evacuation and repatriation’, but not all plans treat this benefit in the same way. You need to check whether your plan includes this benefit or whether it is an optional extra. Also enquire about who pays for the patient, once treated, to be flown back to the country of residence? And who picks up the tab for all the concomitant costs along the way? So an essential check is to clarify how much of the travel and accommodation costs are covered under this benefit. And, just as important, does the benefit extend to include an accompanying adult? What about unexpected costs - will these be covered, or is this a charge deemed to be undertaken by the plan-holder? Whether the cover is all inclusive in the list of benefits, or an optional extra, the same set of questions apply. Complementary therapies have become widespread and healthcare insurance providers have not been slow to include these forms of medical care under their list of benefits. Healthcare insurance providers declare that there is a rising interest in these form of therapies and, as a result, an increasing number of expats now look to see whether this kind of cover is included in the list of benefits. Treatments such as acupuncture, chiropractic, homeopathy and osteopathy are now fairly standard inclusions and some insurance providers are relaxed about allowing policyholders to choose there own ‘alternative’ treatment cover, usually through inclusion in the out-patient list of benefits. What policyholders must watch for is that the practitioners, themselves, are recognised and well qualified to carry out any of these treatments. If you are unsure about what is acceptable, check out with the “I feel special because they speak to me in my language” If you need to make a claim, would you want to speak to someone who will understand your needs? To get the feeling, there’s only one number to call. policy provider before accepting treatment. The third key area to look for with top of the range plans is what is called elective private medical insurance care. This is when the policyholder elects the location of treatment. For instance, you might be expatriated to some corner of the globe where the healthcare provision is not of a standard you would trust or care to undergo. Some plans allow you to choose where you have that care. Others permit a level of location choice provided the reasons stack up, others only allow a policyholder to choose where they are treated provided that choice is within the region they are covered for. So if you have opted for Europe only as a territory, you can’t zip off to the United States for that hip operation. Some plans impose the condition that policyholders may select the location but only if they agree to cover their own travel fees. 24 hour multi-lingual helpline Call +44 (0) 1273 208181 or visit www.bupa-intl.com 14 EXPAT INVESTOR ? October 2008 Your calls will be recorded and may be monitored. The above example draws from the experiences of a number of our members or staff; it is not intended to represent the details of any specific individuals or their circumstances. Fast Facts 88007 expatinvestor.com