On the one hand, you’re relieved to be escaping the Obamacare mess at home. But what standard can you expect of medical care and insurance overseas?
Fortunately, in many places, you’ll find a high standard of health care—though, depending on the country, this may be limited to the bigger cities. Better still, medical care and insurance can cost significantly less than in the States. Often the cost of care is so low that expats opt to “go naked” and pay as they go on their medical care bills. Then, it’s hard to overlook the super-cheap policies, too. In Ecuador, Latin America Correspondent Lee Harrison, paid a premium of just US$50 a month for his local medical coverage.
What will make the most sense for you? That depends on your own circumstances and where you decide to call home. Going the insurance route, you have two options: a local health insurance policy in the country you plan to settle (you can keep Medicare as a backup if you wish to return to the United States for care), or an international health policy to cover you wherever you travel. (For the latter, we recommend an international health policy with Bupa International.)
As you consider your options, here are 10 important questions you should ask your insurance provider or broker before you commit to any health insurance policy:
- Does the insurance cover the place(s) where I intend to live or spend time? Some insurance companies have U.S./Canada/Japan as additional riders, and some U.S. underwriters don’t cover travel in countries under trade embargoes, including Cuba, Iran, and Syria.
- Does the insurance cover the activities I plan to pursue? You may have to pay extra for insurance if you plan on undertaking such activities as bungee jumping or trekking.
- How much is the deductible? You will want to know how much of each claim will not be covered. Then you can judge when not to submit a claim.
- Is the company easy to deal with and do they respond to questions in a timely manner? If the company takes days to return your e-mails or phone calls, imagine what they could be like to deal with in an emergency situation.
- What is the waiting period before coverage begins?
- Is there a list of physicians/hospitals in your new country that the insurance company’s network works with? If yes request access to the list and make sure you feel comfortable using those facilities.
- Will the insurance company have problems with any pre-existing medical conditions?
- Will you have to pay the bill out of pocket and then be reimbursed? Because medical treatment can be expensive, you may not want to be in the position of having to pay out-of-pocket for an extended hospital stay, for example, to be reimbursed by the insurance company later.
- What are the limitations of the policy? Until you check with your insurance provider, don’t assume that corrective eye surgery, plastic surgery, and the like will be covered.
- Are there restrictions or limits on prescription drug coverage? This may not be a concern if the country you are moving to has inexpensive prescription drugs. Also, in many countries, prescriptions are not required for common medications. In this case, you may need to get a doctor’s prescription anyway, in order for the medication to be covered by your insurance company. Once you factor in the cost of the doctor’s visit, plus the medication, it may be more cost effective if you go to the drug store and pay out-of-pocket for certain medications.
Editor’s Note: Want to know more about your international health care and health insurance options? Spanning the globe from Ecuador to France… from Belize to Thailand… and from Panama to Spain… our 2015 Complete Guide To Healthcare And Health Insurance Options Overseas is the most complete resource available on this important topic. And, right now, you can get it for 60% off full price.