Expatriate Insurance

Expatriate insurance policies are created to insure against financial and other losses which may be incurred by expatriates while living and working in a country other than one’s own.

This insurance should be organised before going to a new country. It usually covers the duration of one’s stay. The insurance can be purchased on a 6 month to annual basis.

One of the most important necessities for expatriates is health insurance.  An international health insurance provider namely Now Health International, carried out a survey which included questions about a range of expat experiences. These included attitudes to health cover. A total of 209 responses were gathered and analysed. Most expats in the survey were living and working in the UAE, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand. More than a third had been living away from their homeland for ten years or more.

25 per cent of respondents who had no medical insurance believed that such expatriate insurance was unnecessary. They said they were currently healthy. These expats did not believe that they would fall ill. In recent years the costs for medical care in popular expat locations has undergone double-digit inflation.  Therefore expats risk facing large bills if their health fails them.

Of the same group of respondents, 12 percent were under the impression that their new country’s state healthcare system would take care of them. Expatriates should research the new country’s healthcare system, before arriving there.   Many countries are now introducing regulations limiting medical cover for expats to accident and emergency.

Access to medical resources and the level of industrialisation are two key reasons why some nations have better expatriate insurance options than others. Taiwan is one of the highest rated countries for both health care affordability and quality. In its most recent Expat Explorer survey, HSBC found that nearly 70 per cent of assignees in Taiwan spent less on healthcare while on assignment than in their home country. While assignee satisfaction with Taiwanese healthcare affordability and quality is 3 times the global average, inexpensive health care options can also be found in the UK, Thailand, Japan and Saudi Arabia. The U. S. , Ireland, Brazil and New Zealand are the opposite.

Policies are underwritten in one of two ways: moratorium and full medical underwriting.

With moratorium underwriting, health insurance applicants are not required to make any medical declarations. Any new or unexpected medical conditions that occur after the policy has started will be covered according to the policy conditions.

If you sign up for a policy with moratorium underwriting your pre-existing conditions may be covered if you:

HAVE NOT experienced any symptoms related to your pre-existing condition.

DID NOT obtain advice or tests from a health practitioner regarding your condition.

SHALL NOT require treatment or medication for the condition.

If, for two years after the start date of the policy you continue to fulfil all the criteria above, then your condition will be covered again.
If you have had symptoms, advice or treatment for a condition in the (typically) five years before the start of the policy then there is likely to be a complete ban on that condition. This is all subject to the terms and conditions of your policy.

Full medical underwriting is the more usual way of applying for health insurance. It involves a full medical history disclosure. Any cover offered is based on your medical history and will likely exclude pre-existing conditions.

Why choose moratorium underwriting?

If you have no health issues you can take out cover quickly and even fill in all the forms online. For those with health problems in their past, moratorium underwriting may be more beneficial. There are many conditions that ordinarily would not be covered with a full medical disclosure. Providing you stay symptom, advice and treatment free for the specified time, then cataracts, mole and cyst removal and joint replacements are among those things that can be covered.

Moratorium underwriting has been criticised as being unclear for policyholders. People may be unsure what is covered until they make a claim. Delays can also occur when a claim is made as insurers check with doctors about whether a treatment is covered.

Policyholders have a two year window in which they need to remain advice, treatment and symptom free in order to be covered by their policy. If they break these rules they have to start the two year waiting period again. This presents a risk that policyholders could be tempted to delay treatment or seek advice for existing conditions.

More companies are offering the choice of moratorium underwriting though may still only have the full medical option. The following are some companies that offer moratorium policies.

Aviva – MyShield policy
WPA
Simply Private Health Insurance