If you are living abroad on a long-term basis, you will need to ensure your health is protected by the right insurance.

If you are living in your own country, you take out health insurance with a local trusted provider; this much is obvious. If you decide to travel for a few months on end, you buy travel insurance to cover you for the time you are away – this is a no brainer. So why do things start to get more complicated the moment you decide to relocate abroad on a more permanent basis?

Don’t complicate matters for yourself; just because you are living abroad on a permanent basis does not mean your health should be jeopardised in any way. Health insurance comes in different forms and it suits different lifestyles. Here is a breakdown of why international health insurance is the obvious choice for an expat.

Travel insurance is a supplement

Firstly, travel insurance is not designed to be a primary health care option and it should never be treated as such. It’s ideal for those people who are only travelling temporarily, as a means to supplement their health insurance at home. Travel insurance is necessary because if you’re anything like me, you’re likely to be a little more adventurous during your travels than you would be at home, i.e. doing water sports, hiking or jumping out of a plane, for example.

This type of insurance is designed to cover those who are travelling and not earning an income. There is usually a time limit imposed on your coverage too. Travel insurance, therefore, is not suitable for expats living permanently in another country because it is – in essence – supplementary coverage, nothing more.

Does your insurer speak your language?

You could take out insurance from a local provider in your new country. This however, could land you in more trouble than it’s worth, especially if you can’t fully trust the provider to take care of you when you need it most.

If you are moving to a country that doesn’t speak your native language, you’ll also face a whole host of language barriers when trying to negotiate the best plan for yourself. Can you imagine trying to make a claim with an insurer that does not speak your language? Ultimately, you are making life more difficult for yourself.

Risking your health is foolish

If you decide to “wing it” by not taking out any kind of insurance, I have to emphasise the foolishness of this decision. Without insurance you will have to cover your own medical bills, which might be inexpensive compared to your home country, but could still add up to a large amount. There are stories of people forced to remain in hospital because they can’t afford to pay their medical bills upfront, a practice implemented in most Asian countries – I don’t fancy being trapped in hospital, do you?

Is there insurance specifically for expats?

The answer is simply yes. International health insurance is the middle ground between location-based health insurance and travel insurance. Expats who move abroad permanently often forfeit their primary health insurance and as a result, are completely on their own when it comes to taking care of their medical expenses. International health insurance, or expat insurance, is designed to offer the same quality of health insurance you were previously covered for at home.

notebook-405755_1920International insurance is flexible, so if you plan to travel to many countries, or live permanently abroad, you will always be covered. Anna Wickham, an American expat, refers to herself as a “digital nomad”, a “growing group of people who move around from place to place while they run remote businesses”. She explains the advantages of international health insurance for American expats: “Since I knew I would be outside of the US for at least a year, I opted for the option that excluded coverage in the US. This cut my premiums in half, but it also meant that I didn’t have to worry about coverage as I travelled to many different countries throughout the year.”

If you plan to move abroad, making sure you have the correct health insurance is essential. It’s important to remember that an expat needs more than supplementary cover. Fortunately, there is health insurance to suit everyone, expats included, so there is no excuse to risk your health.

Images: [epicantus, picography]