International Health Insurance: Costs And More

International Health Insurance

“Nobody’s going anywhere until they’re comfortable with the quality and the cost of the local medical care.”

Lief and I met yesterday afternoon with the most knowledgeable international health insurance expert we know.

In fact, Kevin Bradley is the most knowledgeable international insurance expert we know. Car insurance, homeowners, fire, casualty, and, yes, health…Kevin can detail the policy options, the pluses and the minuses, the costs, the premiums, the deductibles…anything you might want to know as you prepare to invest in any kind of insurance you might need to support your new life abroad.

“Health care and health insurance…they’re the key,” Kevin assured us yesterday in his office.

“Here’s the first thing you need to know about international health insurance,” Kevin continued.

“Don’t buy it on the Internet.

“I hear from people all the time who write to tell me about the amazingly cheap health insurance policy they found and purchased on the Internet. I ask one or two questions, and immediately I know that they didn’t buy health insurance. Not really. They bought some other kind of product, something they don’t really understand, and something that probably isn’t going to cover them the way they might someday need to be covered.

“The other thing to know about international health insurance is that, fundamentally, you have two choices: local cover or an international policy. Both are good options. Which way you decide to go depends on your circumstances.

“Here in Panama, for example,” Kevin explained, “a local health insurance policy can cost as little as US$100 a month, and it can be all the coverage you need. The trouble with local agencies in this country (and in most countries) is that they’ll write a policy for you as a new client only until a certain age.

“International insurance groups, on the other hand, will insure you as a new client up to the age of 74. Of course, the cost is more than US$100 a month, but, the point is, you can get insurance as a new resident in a foreign country up until age 74. And, once you’re insured, the coverage continues for the rest of your life, as long as you pay the premiums.

“Of all the international options, I recommend BUPA. It’s the best quality coverage for the best price. Moreover, BUPA is a big and solid operation. When it comes to health insurance, you want to buy from someone who’s going to be around in 10 or 20 years…when you need them.

“I know people who bought insurance locally in Chiriqui, here in Panama, for example. These local products were offered through the hospital out there. And now they’re defunct. Out of business. Kaput. What recourse do those people have?

“A 60-year-old can get an ‘Essential Care’ policy from BUPA, with a US$5,000 deductible, for US$1,911 a year. That’s US$159.25 a month.

“A 70-year-old will pay US$3,433 for the same policy. That’s US$286 a month.

“More expensive than a local policy in Panama, for example, but these BUPA policies cover you anywhere in the world.

“And even the most expensive international policy from BUPA can be far, far, less expensive than U.S. health insurance these days.”

Kathleen Peddicord