For many expats accessing quality healthcare in their new country is a common concern, particularly those with families. In some countries, the local healthcare insurance is more than enough to cover their needs. However, you need to be aware that local healthcare insurances often keep their costs low by only offering treatment at a specific network of clinics and hospitals – which won’t suit you if you are travelling between countries on a regular basis.
The different types of local healthcare coverage
There are different types of local healthcare coverage, some of which are even free:
- State health cover: A good example of this is the UK, where people pay a portion of their income to the state in order to access free healthcare when they need it. Free healthcare, except in the case of emergency, is often restricted to citizens or permanent residents.
- State health insurance provision: In some countries, like France and Belgium, expats can choose to pay an additional amount to enjoy a wide range of healthcare options.
- Private health insurance providers: This is often a lot more expensive than state health insurance, but provides you with access to a range of country-specific private medical facilities, where you’re guaranteed shorter treatment waiting times versus state facilities offering the same treatment.
Local healthcare restrictions
The problem with all forms of local insurance is that it is only valid in your country of residence, which is often not compatible with an expat lifestyle. Even local private policies are generally aimed at national citizens and are unlikely to pay for medical treatment outside your new country. Even if you are travelling abroad on holiday, you will probably have to take out additional international cover to deal with any issues that may arise.
If you are a citizen of the EEA (the EU plus, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland), your European Health Insurance Cards do cover you for care between these countries – but it’s important to note it only covers emergency and necessary treatment.
The freedom of international healthcare insurance
International health insurance plans cover you no matter what country you are living in or visiting. You and your family will receive healthcare in your new country of residence, your home country or any other country you travel to. Another advantage is that international health cover provides you with access to a far wider choice of hospitals and a wide range of services.
Read the fine print
It’s important to read your private health insurance coverage policy carefully as there may be certain restrictions covering any pre-existing conditions or things like private maternity cover, which may require you to have the policy for a certain period of time, before you can access this benefit. Also, ensure that there are no health coverage gaps and that your international health insurance covers you for the entire duration that you are in a country.
Before making any decision on your type of healthcare insurance, consider how much you will be travelling, what your medical needs are and which type of insurance provides you with the best type of coverage. Local health insurance is far cheaper – but you might find it does not cover expensive aspects of care like dental or alternative forms of treatment.