The Expat Health Insurance Gap

Tuesday, May 05 2009 @ 10:29 AM EDT

Contributed by: Kevin Bradley

Published on Tuesday, May 05th, 2009 by Shelter Offshore:

http://www.shelteroffshore.com/index.php/health/more/expat-health-insurance-gap-10436/

The recession and deflation are seeing prices for all sorts of services, goods and commodities fall in real terms. Some say this is a downward spiral that’s hard to break as we all wait for prices to fall before we buy anything – but that aside for a moment, there is one ‘commodity’ or service that’s actually fast increasing in expense, and that’s health insurance.

For expatriates and those thinking about a move overseas, this is worrying news. Health insurance is already an expensive necessity to have for expatriates in most nations, and many expats are looking at ways of cutting the overall cost of their cover. Some find that by taking local insurance only they can cut their costs, but then they leave themselves exposed to the expat health insurance gap.

The expat health insurance gap exists for those who want to travel, relocate or repatriate, and it’s those who fall into the latter category who are being particularly affected at the moment as they realise that they are not automatically entitled to NHS care if they do return to Great Britain. What’s more, some of the largest international insurers such as AXAPPP and BUPA are keen to let expats know that their international policies are actually more competitively priced than many may previously have thought.


Why International Health Insurance is Rising MORE...

Insurers are aware that for a number of known reasons, their claims departments are about to get busier. It’s a recorded fact that in a recession, claims on health insurance policies rise. In part this is because those with a corporate policy who believe they may be made redundant or have such insurance benefits cut are keen to ‘cash in’ ahead of such a happening and get any elective surgery or minor complaints sorted out now whilst cover is in place. In addition, people literally worry themselves sick about the recession and the situation they are in.

How Recession Depression is Affecting Expat Health Insurance Policy Costs
‘Recession depression’ is a term being bandied about by the media – and it refers to a very real condition that’s affecting greater numbers of people as the global hype about the state of the world’s economies becomes almost hysterical, and we all collectively focus on the negative and bring about anything and everything from ulcers to other stress related problems, such as high blood pressure and heart conditions. All of these factors affect the number of claims insurers are facing. This naturally will have an impact on policy premiums.

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Additionally, it is thought that because insurers invest a significant amount of policy payments into the stock market and they have suffered from poor performance in recent years, they will pass this lack of performance on to their customers in the form of policy price increases. Inflation in international medical terms is already running at between 12 and 15% per annum according to insurance industry sources, and the World Health Organisation claims that this figure is actually 15 to 20% in America, so with the thought that premiums will advance further than this in coming years, most expats are wildly looking around for cheaper cover.

Why it Doesn’t Always Pay to Take Local Health Care Cover
However, the larger insurers are trying to get the word out that they have faired better than many others because of their sheer presence in the market, and that expats should look to them for complete cover that will even fill the expat health insurance gap. Traditionally those looking to cut costs on their essential insurances have looked to the local market to see what a local policy will provide them with – this is all well and good if you’re sure you’re going to remain an expat in that nation for the rest of your life. However, such policies are seldom transportable, meaning that if you chose to or are forced to relocate or repatriate, then you are left with a gap in terms of your health care cover.

Expats returning to the UK are often unaware that they cannot automatically sign back up to the National Health Service, and that in some cases they are left waiting up to eighteen months before they are allowed to have free health care as hospital trust managers need to be assured that the returning expat’s decision to stay in the UK is ‘irrevocable.’ This can be too long for many expats who need health care, have no health insurance in the UK and cannot afford to pay to go private.

If you’re looking into your healthcare cover therefore, think about all aspects of the cover that you need. Know that if you fall seriously ill whether insured or not, you will face extreme difficulty in getting cover or changing insurer in the future too. So, your research into who you should insure with and what sort of cover you should have is critically important. If you need advice and assistance, we recommend you speak to an expat financial adviser who has wide knowledge of the insurers offering products to international citizens, and who can also help you look at all the considerations that you need to have in mind when making a decision about your insurance needs.

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Kevin Bradley - Insurance in Panama
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