International health insurance

If you are contemplating living or working abroad for a prolonged period, then it is worth thinking about your health care, researching the health services available to you in your chosen country and considering international health insurance.

International health insurance gives you access to some of the best private health care when you are abroad, providing cover for both routine and emergency treatment when you need it; keeping you in control of your health and reassured that you will receive the highest level of medical support.

How does international medical insurance work?

Availability of health care services varies from country to country. Some offer state funded health services similar to the NHS, whereas other countries require you to join a healthcare scheme.

When you move abroad permanently, you are no longer entitled to the services of the NHS as you have to be residing in the UK – one of the reasons why many people consider expat health insurance. Of course the NHS provide the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for people travelling abroad that allows access to medical treatment based at a reduced cost or for free, but again you are not able to use your EHIC if you have made a permanent move.

In addition, in countries where healthcare is subsidised, foreign nationals don’t automatically receive treatment on the same basis, so you may have international health insurance for over 50sto have permanent residency in order to receive medical treatment which can take time – another example where expat health insurance can be of help.

The benefit of international medical insurance is that you don’t have the worry of understanding individual country’s healthcare policies, or where to go to when you need medical care, as your international insurance is on hand 24 hours a day to offer help and advice.

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What services are included in health insurance abroad?

As with all types of insurance, overseas medical insurance varies depending on the services you want to include and the amount you want to pay. In general it offers the same flexibility and control as a UK private health insurance plan providing a choice of the following services:

  • In patient, day patient and out patient care (Tests, diagnostics and specialist fees
  • Drugs
  • Aftercare therapy
  • Dental care
  • Routine health check ups
  • Cancer treatment
  • Maternity care
  • Access to a 24 hour helpline
  • Repatriation if you want to be treated back in the UK

The cost of your overseas medical insurance will depend on your age, possibly the state of your health depending which type of insurance you choose, the services you require and also where you want to be covered. For example some international health care plans offer cover for Europe only; others provide worldwide medical insurance which will be reflected in the price.

So in addition to European medical insurance, there are also two types of worldwide insurance to choose from;

  • Worldwide medical insurance including the USA
  • Worldwide medical insurance excluding the USA

Medical care can be expensive in the USA so if you are not travelling to this part of the world, it would be worth considering ‘worldwide medical insurance excluding the USA’ as your premiums will be cheaper.

It’s also worth pointing out too that your family can be taken into consideration too if required as some companies offer international health insurance for children at no extra charge.

Is travel insurance the same as international medical insurance?

You may be excused for thinking that international medical insurance is just another term for travel insurance but they are actually very different types of insurance, designed for very different use.

Travel insurance covers emergencies and risks related to a short term trip or holiday and includes cover for flight issues, cancelations, lost luggage and personal items in addition to a limited amount of emergency medical treatment.

Basically travel insurance provides sufficient short term cover to get you back on your feet so you can travel home – then the cover ends.

Overseas health insurance however provides more comprehensive medical cover on a longer term basis for everyday routine healthcare requirements, in addition to emergency treatment. It means that you have the flexibility to choose how and where you are treated which can be of great benefit if you are in a country where you do not speak the language and are not familiar with the health services available to you.

How to buy international health insurance?

When choosing any form of insurance it is important to read reviews and compare, so using an international health insurance comparison service is a great place to start. In addition to looking at the price, take a good look at the services included and limitations on cover as they vary from company to company.

You can buy health insurance abroad but it may only cover you for that country which means you wouldn’t be covered if you came home or travelled to another company.

Our advice

For more information on the best international health insurance plans our advice is to always compare the market and speak to an adviser who will find the best deal to suit you

Our service through First Choice Health & Protection is free to use

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Updated 2nd April 2020 by Ashley Shepherd

Ashley is the founder and managing director at Over50choices. With over 30 years’ experience in financial services, he has held senior roles in building societies, banks and insurance companies.

Ashley Shepherd

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