Living and working overseas is a challenge that many UK citizens take up every year. It can also be an enormous upheaval on many levels. For our clients, giving support for their health and well-being in the shape of International Private Medical Insurance (iPMI) is a vital part of the services we offer.
At home in Britain, regardless of whether you have medical insurance or not we all know that we always have the ‘fall-back’ position to rely on the National Health Service for our healthcare needs. When living overseas this is not usually the case. So what might happen if the worst happens and you or a loved one falls ill when living and working abroad ?
The answer of course is iPMI. This type of cover is absolutely essential for UK expats and in the following article we are going to discuss several key elements of iPMI cover that you need to watch out for when buying this type of cover.
General healthcare cover benefits Like any medical insurance plan at home or abroad you need to ensure the basic plan benefits (in-patient and out-patient cover) meet your needs and that you understand what is and isn’t included. This basic research ensures that you manage your expectations and then when medical interventions are needed, things go smoothly.
Country specific issues In your country of residence what is available medically for you as a foreign national ? For example can you access any healthcare for free or on a subsidized basis ? In the EU there are general cross-border agreements in place for emergency cover but things vary between member nations for elective treatment, diagnostics and the general maintenance of your health. The situation varies even more widely in other countries across the world. You must ensure you consider the strengths and weaknesses of health provision where you are living and construct your iPMI to provide the benefits you need. For example, if you know primary care (access to general practice or it’s equivalent) is weak then ensure your iPMI has this as a strong element of available benefits.
Repatriation and Emergency Evacuation What happens if you are severely ill and treatment cannot be given where you are or if someone on cover dies.? A good iPMI plan needs both repatriation and evacuation where medically necessary at its core. It can cost literally tens of thousands of pounds for emergency treatment and travel involving a fully equipped air ambulance. Do not leave yourself in the situation of having to accept inferior care because emergency evacuation isn’t available.
Geographic Area Cover in the EU can be relatively low cost but if you are likely to travel and work in the USA, China or other far flung parts of the Earth then can costs can rise. Most insurers price their plans based on geographic ‘region’ with the premise that it can cost far more for medical treatment in some parts of the world than others. Insurers will therefore expect a full declaration of where you are likely to go when working overseas. As an example I have one iPMI client working in Delhi but who regularly visits China and Japan – the insurer knows my clients travel schedule and charges a specific higher rate to cover travel to the Far East.
Underwriting and chronic conditions At the core of all medical insurance plans is the need for the insurer to assess risk and price accordingly. As with UK based PMI, insurers will typically seek to exclude previous medical conditions to limit their likely exposure to claims. However, due to the sketchy nature of healthcare provision around the world some insurers more comprehensive plans may include some element of cover for previously existing medical problems and also for chronic conditions (that is problems that cannot be cured and often require routine medical support) that would on a UK plan never be covered routinely.
As you can tell from the above, iPMI cover is a complex and technical product area and one which needs to be right for every client. Before moving overseas or if you’re there already and not happy with your current international plan please get in touch and let the international experts at Premier Choice review what is right for you.