Can I be covered while abroad? - Private Health Insurance

This is a common question, asked by people who are leaving the UK on a temporary or permanent basis for the following reasons:

  • Retirement
  • Overseas employment or contracting
  • Running a business from another country
  • Emigration

The main reason behind this question is that, unlike the UK, healthcare has to be paid for in other countries. And this can be costly. So rather than get caught out it makes sense to take out some form of health insurance, called ‘expatriate health insurance’. And there are some countries within Europe and the Middle East who expect foreign nationals to have expatriate cover. In other words, it’s a condition of entry to that country. Expatriate health insurance is similar to UK based insurance in that you choose the options which are applicable to yourself. And, like other forms of insurance, there are limits to this policy, which come in two aspects:

  • Limits on all sections of your policy throughout the year
  • Individual limit/s on a particular section of your policy

You will find that they all have a basic ‘core’ level of care to which can be added additional features. There is no ‘one size fits all’ type of package: instead you have the choice of various packages and cover. Before any of this you need to think about the country you are going to, the type of healthcare available and your finances. Consider the culture and laws of the country you are going to, especially in regard to healthcare and how this will affect you as a foreigner. Do your homework before you travel. If you are looking to buy expatriate health insurance then ask yourself the following questions before you do so:

  • What cover will suit you and your lifestyle, and what you can afford.
  • Do you want a budget package or a comprehensive package?
  • What do you want cover for, and what do you want to exclude?
  • Do you want cover for accidents and injuries?
  • Do you want access to a 24 hour, multilingual helpline?
  • Do you want a type of policy which stays the same, even if you relocate to another country?

An international policy will cover similar services that are offered to UK customers. And, additionally, they include preventative health services such as cervical and prostate tests. You may also find that they offer compassionate cover, say if you have to fly back to the UK for a funeral. Others types of cover include:

  • Students: if you are planning on studying in another country then the last thing on your mind is what happens if you are taken ill. But, this can be a costly and miserable experience. Consider taking out cover for any unexpected illnesses or emergencies.
  • War and terrorism activities: you can be covered for this along as you are not involved in any shape or form.
  • Teachers: if you are planning on teaching in an overseas school then check to see if your school provides cover or whether you have to arrange this yourself.

There are several insurance companies which specialise in expatriate health insurance, for example AXA PPP Healthcare. Research these online and obtain details and quotes.

If cost is an issue then look at ways of reducing this. These are the same as buying UK based insurance and include: only buying the cover that you need, choosing limited cover and paying a higher excess.

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