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Expat Medical Insurance - How to Choose a Policy That is Right For You

Updated on February 15, 2009

Overseas Health Insurance

A Guide to Choosing Expat Medical Insurance

Expat medical insurance is an important consideration for expats moving to live abroad. Choosing the right health insurance policy for you and your family is essential for peace of mind, knowing that things are covered in an emergency or just the normal expenses of doctors visits and prescriptions.

For many expatriates it can be difficult and expensive to access the right medical treatment without a suitable expat health insurance plan.

An extensive choice of different expatriate medical insurance plans exist which suit most needs.They range from the very basic of supplementing existing Social Security plans in individual countries, to Gold / Platinum all inclusive Star cover for virtually every eventuality.

How to Choose an Expat Medical Plan

There are many policies specifically for expats and those moving to live and/or work abroad. When making a choice of policy consider the following:

1) The Social Security Health System in the country you are moving to and your rights to medical treatment under that system.

For example EU citizens moving to another EU country are often covered under the new country's health system, so check what you are entitled to and for how long. Also check what that cover extends to and the state of the health service in the country you are moving to.

Expat medical insurance can be taken out supplementary to the local health system to cover private doctors visits, hospital stays, private operations and, perhaps important for some, repatriation expenses if you wish to be flown home in an emergency (air ambulance) etc.

2) The Small Print

a) Check the amount of cover.

Some health insurance policies may claim that they provide 100% cover. On reading the small print you may well find the first three or six months provide only 60 to 80% cover.

b) Deductable Level / Excess

Is there an excess amount / deductible level on the medical policy? This is the amount that you have to pay first before the insurance pays out. For example an excess of €200 means that you have to pay the first €200 of a claim and the insurance pays over this amount. Excess or deductable levels may vary from policy to policy and can be suited to your needs (and pocket - policies without an excess, where the insurance pays out from the first € are more expensive.)

c) Exclusion Clauses

Check for exclusions. Most medical insurance policies exclude : maternity, pre-existing conditions, chronic conditions (eg diabetes).

If you require cover for anything which is listed as an exclusion ask for another quote with your condition included.

d) Pay First, Claim Later?

Does the medical insurance policy expect you to pay full or part costs and then claim a refund later? Many policies will expect you to pay for tests, scans, a private doctor's visit etc and make a rufund claim. Some may also expect you to pay out of your own pocket for expensive medication, even hospital stays or surgery. Check the details of claims procedures before you commit to a medical insurance policy.

e) LIfetime Maximum

When you compare costs between two or more health insurance policies check the Lifetime Maximum payment of the plan. This is important to know if you or someone in your family has an illness that requires expensive treatments.


Using an Insurance Broker will ensure that you receive some degree of independent advice. Brokers can offer plans from many international medical insurance providers and should be able to match your needs and budget.


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