How Your International Medical Coverage Choices Affect Premiums
Expat insurance plans, if not chosen correctly, can come with a hefty price tag. Factors affecting the international medical insurance premiums are varied and can include the insurance company you want to be covered with, your age, but also the main country where you will use your plan. For example, the cost of a health insurance plan in the UK will differ when compared to a health insurance plan in Japan with similar coverage and benefits. This is because premiums are calculated based on the overall cost of health insurance in the country where you seek coverage. Other factors that affect premiums are country of citizenship, which countries you choose to be covered in, deductibles and cost-share, and your age.
Here, we will focus on how your health insurance coverage options affect premiums or the final price for your expat insurance medical plan.
Different Plan Levels Come with Varying Benefits and Costs
Most plans will offer you a basic level of coverage, a mid-tier plan, and a premium package. You might see these plans listed as Silver, Gold, and Platinum or Basic, Enhanced, and Premier. Each plan level will have a different annual policy maximum and a schedule of benefits with additional limits. As you may have guessed, the Platinum level of plans typically have higher limits per policy and within their schedule of benefits. They will also cost more.
Annual or Lifetime Policy Maximums
Plans typically offer an overall limit on your plan, per year or over the life of your policy. These limits will apply both to your overall benefits. For example, a particular plan may offer $1 million, $3 million, or $8 million in cover per year (or sometimes per policy). This tells you how much the policy will cover in total per period. If you exceed that maximum in medical costs during the specified period, you will be responsible for any additional payments.
Schedule Benefit Limits
Plans will also specify limits on individual benefits. This lets you know how much they will pay for each of those types of treatments (i.e. dental care, hospital room costs, and prescriptions). You can be well below your policy maximum but still be limited on benefits received for specific types of care.
Inpatient Only vs Comprehensive International Coverage
The coverage options which are available for international health policies are diverse and can range from the most basic coverage for hospitalization, all the way through inpatient plans with outpatient benefits to more comprehensive ones with dental, wellness, or maternity add-ons. As a rule, the more comprehensive medical coverage you chose, the higher your insurance premiums will be.
While inpatient coverage is at the base of every international health insurance plan, you can sometimes adjust the premiums by adding and removing other coverage options, such as:
- Outpatient coverage
- Coverage for mental care
- Maternity insurance
- Repatriation benefits
- Medical evacuation
- Outpatient medicine or pharmacy services
- Optical/Vision insurance
- Dental insurance
- Complementary and alternative medicine
- And more
The more expensive plans will come with all of the above included. Less expensive plans may either not include some of the above benefits or they will limit the amounts they will pay for each. It is relevant to remember that many, but not all, expatriate medical plans can be tailored to fit your specific needs. If in doubt, it is best to compare international health insurance plans online, or with the help of a professional insurance adviser.
Private or Public Healthcare
Medical plans that are international in nature usually include both private and public healthcare coverage options. It is up to you how you use these plans keeping in mind your medical benefits limits. Private healthcare providers can be more expensive than public facilities. Sometimes choosing private versus public healthcare in the location you are residing is the most cost-effective way to manage your benefit limits. You may want to do all of your outpatient visits privately as it saves you time. When it comes to elective surgery, you may opt to do it in a public facility to save on costs as not to exceed your benefit limits for the year.
From our experience, the majority of expatriates who are looking for good medical care abroad opt for the private healthcare option. In most cases, it will come with a better quality of service and other benefits, such as:
- Direct billing
- Medical staff that speaks English and often other major languages
- Ability to choose a doctor
- Shorter waiting times for a consultation or operation
- More comfortable beds and private suites available in hospitals
- Better customer service
Knowing that private healthcare will cost you more in insurance premiums, and depending on your needs and budget, it is advisable to compare the cost of public and private healthcare in your main destination. Do this in advance so that you know how high you should set your benefit limits. You can do it by yourself, or you can let professional advisers help you with this reviewing and comparing coverage and costs.
Plans Covering Pre-existing Conditions Will Cost More
One major problem that many people have to face when it comes to signing up for a new international health plan is the issue of insuring pre-existing conditions. A pre-existing condition is described as any health issue you had before joining a new insurance policy. International insurance companies tend to treat such illnesses as ineligible for cover. They will specifically exclude costs associated with them from the plan. As a result, policyholders may have to deal with hefty out-of-pocket expenses if they need treatment for those conditions.
Some insurance companies will offer to cover pre-existing conditions with adjustments to the overall plan. Some insurers will require a waiting period before coverage takes effect. Others will add deductibles for those specific conditions, or increase premiums (also known as a Rate-up), as an agreement for receiving coverage, or partial coverage, for the pre-existing condition.
Certain pre-existing conditions are recommended to be covered as they may lead to other more serious illnesses. However, if your medical practitioner declares a new illness to be a result of the pre-existing condition, the insurer might refuse to cover the treatment.
What Else to Look for When Choosing International Health Insurance?
While the coverage options play a tremendous role in the medical insurance premiums you will end up paying, there are also other factors that are important to consider when choosing international medical insurance.
The International Insurance Company
The insurance company you are going to get your plan with also plays a role in the overall premium price. It is important to consider why it is usually a good idea to choose to be covered with one of the best global health insurance companies. Although the better insurers may be more expensive, they also pay claims faster, have a better network of doctors and hospitals, and generally offer more comprehensive coverage for when you need it.
Additionally, larger insurers are less likely to run into profit issues which may cause drastic premium increases during policy renewal. Another factor to consider is the overall customer service provided by the insurer. While it is not being measured in money, good customer service might save you stress and time when problems occur. Ask your advisor about this or read up on the company’s reviews.
Consider Deductibles or Coinsurance
Deductibles, Cost Share, or Coinsurance are ways to share costs with the insurer if you need medical care and therefore lower your upfront premium costs. Sometimes it is better to choose a plan that is provided by a more established insurer while choosing a higher deductible or coinsurance. You can still enjoy comprehensive coverage with lower premiums by incorporating deductibles or coinsurance into your plan. Your out-of-pocket costs will be higher for most basic care but you will have much better service and more comprehensive coverage should you get very sick.
Network Providers List
Where you receive medical care is important. This point relates to the clinics and hospitals that are available in your international medical insurance plan. Depending on the plan and the insurer, the network provider list might vary. As a rule of hand, it is advisable to research clinics and hospitals near you or those with a good reputation in your area. Check whether the plan has them in their provider list, and even better if the plan has them as a direct billing partner. Having a more extensive network provider list means more convenient choices for you, but this will reflect in the insurance premiums as well.
Compare Your Options
Getting a new health insurance plan as an expat is an important decision. Compare different plans, coverage options, and benefit limits to see which one is the most suitable for your specific needs and budget. To make this process a little bit easier, consider engaging one of our impartial health insurance consultants who will explain your options in a clear and informative way. Get a quote for international health insurance today!