Which Overseas Health Insurance Option Is Best For You?
Choosing a strategy for health insurance is one of the most important decisions you must make as you work to conceive a plan for reinventing your life in a new country. The choice you make depends on your age, your lifestyle, your travel plans, your current state of health, and your budget. This is a hugely personal decision, and there’s no such thing as the “best” approach. It’s what is best for you.
Big picture, you have three options: an international policy, a local policy, or no policy at all.
This third option can be more reasonable than it may seem, depending on where you decide to relocate and how much time you plan to spend there. In some countries on our favorites list (Thailand, for example), medical care is so affordable that it can make sense to pay for it as you need it, rather than insuring against it. I know many retirees and expats, in Thailand and elsewhere, who’ve done the math and come to the conclusion that they’re better off without insurance of any kind.
Of course, though, not everyone is comfortable going naked, as it were. And the most important thing about choosing a health insurance strategy for your new life overseas is that you’re comfortable with whatever you decide. Retiring overseas is about improving your life…not creating new worries that keep you up at night.
If the thought of no insurance makes your eyes twitch, then you’re choosing between an international policy…or a local, in-country one.
International Health Insurance Policy
One of the main advantages of an international health insurance policy is that it can cover you under all circumstances anywhere in the world, making it a good option if you intend to travel regularly beyond your chosen overseas retirement haven; if your retire-overseas plan is to move around among two or three countries; or if you intend never to retire anywhere but to roam the world perpetually, discovering and exploring as your wanderlust dictates.
An international policy also can be a good option if you’re an American and intend to divide your time between your chosen overseas haven and the United States, because it can be possible to purchase an international health policy that will also cover you when you return or pass through Stateside.
This is the kind of coverage Lief and I have opted for. Our Bupa International policy, based originally in Ireland but now in Panama, covers us anywhere in the world, including in the United States when we visit. We’re paying extra for this, as the United States is the most expensive place in the world to obtain medical care. Given our lifestyles and travel schedules, though, we decided recently to make this additional investment.
Here are the three highest-rated global insurance companies that you should consider when getting a plan.
- Cigna Global – As one of the first companies to offer global plans, Cigna is one of the top providers for international health insurance. They offer great flexible plans with options to add extra benefits and cost sharing options to help you keep the costs under control.
- GeoBlue Global Medical – GeoBlue is an independent licensee of the blue cross, they offer access to an elite network of providers and offer great plans for both long-term or short-term stays.
- Aetna International – Aetna is a well-known name for health insurance and the company has been around for over 160 years and have a well-established network all round the world. They offer comprehensive plans and have round-the-clock support for customers.
Local Health Insurance Policy
Generally speaking, an international health insurance policy is more expensive than a local one, sometimes substantially more expensive. Local medical insurance can cost less than US$100 a month. In some countries, depending on your age, less than US$50 a month.
It’s important, though, that you understand what you’re buying. Policy options, details of coverage, deductibles, and premium costs vary dramatically both country to country and agency to agency within a country.
In addition, local insurance providers accept new policyholders only through a certain age that is typically younger than the cut-off age for an international policy. In other words, depending on the country where you’re intending to relocate and your age, a local policy may not be an option. You may have no choice but to invest in a (more expensive) international policy if you want formal health coverage.
Note, too, that some in-country insurance companies allow you to renew your policy only until a certain age. Others offer lifetime coverage.
Bottom line, though, if you qualify, in-country insurance options in some of the world’s top overseas retirement havens can be limited but remarkably affordable.