Expats around the world are well aware of the need for international health coverage, because illness or accidents can strike when you least expect them. You may never actually need or use your insurance, but having it gives you the sense of security that someone is watching over you.
Health insurance should be like that one friend that you may not always see or speak to, but they always comes through when you need them and always picks up the phone when you call. They should be that friend that gives you your space but at the same time always has your back.
Life is unexpected, especially as an expat
You may not know where you will be a year from now or when you might find yourself in the midst of a health emergency. B. Goldman, an American expat who has been permanently based in Asia for the past 20 years, shared his story with us. He found out that he urgently needed surgery within only 10 days of diagnosis. Despite taking out his policy almost 15 years ago, this was the first occasion when he desperately needed the help and support of his chosen insurer. He told us how grateful he was for their efficiency and explained why it is so important that you can rely and trust your health provider to pull through for you when you need it most.
After having spoken to B. Goldman, we decided to put together a list of some of the most important qualities that your chosen health insurer should have, especially if you are living abroad on a permanent basis.
When B. Goldman found himself needing emergency surgery, it only took one phone call to his insurance company for everything to be sorted. “They took care of everything […] I didn’t have to do a thing. When I checked into the hospital they had already made arrangements for billing so I didn’t have to spend any of my time whatsoever with the normal financial stuff you normally need to deal with.”
He said that all arrangements had been made, all providers had been contacted, and all bills had been handled properly. He even received a pre-surgery phone call to reassure him that everything had been taken care of. All he needed to do now was worry about getting better. “They were so efficient, that there was little need for actual contact.”
“I was amazed […] and it reconfirmed how much I value their service.” It’s important that your insurance provider has one foot through the door before you’ve even dialled their number. “They do a good job of anticipating the needs of expatriates,” he concludes. Efficiency is key, after all.
Stability and reputable providers
Health insurance companies need to be partnered with good and reputable providers such as hospitals, clinics, surgeons and anesthesiologists. This was the case when B. Goldman first started shopping around. His health provider was backed up by a reputable group that he had already heard of which made his decision easier. He goes on to say that when he was in Asia initially only covered by his US insurance, it was hard to find good providers and that most of them would only help him in an emergency.
The stability of a company also speaks for itself. An insurance company that has had the same employees for an extended period of time means that they can really get to know you and your medical history. This makes processes simpler as you don’t have to deal with new faces every time you require something.
Always there for you
As mentioned before, an insurance company is like that friend who will always have your back, even when you don’t need them. They are not just there for emergencies. Living abroad for a long time requires finding good health providers for everyday necessities such as medicine, common colds, or regular check-ups, especially for retirees, older expats or any expat requiring constant monitoring or visits to the doctor. Your insurance company should prove their commitment to your health care, for all your medical needs.
You shouldn’t have to fight for your rights
When you are living abroad and you urgently require your health insurance provider to pull through, the last thing you need is to feel like you are fighting them to provide you with what you need. You deserve the care and support that you have paid for.
Interestingly, this is exactly how B. Goldman felt when dealing with his US health insurance company: “it felt like I was fighting them, [they] always wanted to provide less than I needed.” This is the strength of international insurance, which continues to offer the same amount of coverage regardless of where you are in the world when you need to claim.
So, is your insurance like that one friend? They need to be more than just a backup but a consistent presence in your life. Regardless of where you are in the world they need to be easy to reach and should always be there in the background, ready to jump to action, whether it’s for a routine check-up, a dental procedure, or emergency surgery.
Although you may never actually need to use your insurance for anything major, it’s so important that your provider is willing to go to any lengths to help you whenever you need them.
Quotes taken from an interview with B. Goldman who has been covered by Integra Global, an international private medical insurance provider (IPMI), for over 10 years.
Image: [Senior Airman Jessica Snow]