International versus Local medical insurance

When looking at insurance as an expatriate, you usually have two options in regards to medical insurance. There is the choice between purchasing either a local medical insurance plan or an international medical insurance plan. These two varieties of medical insurance policies differ in many regards and each type has its own particular advantages.

  • Most expatriates in the modern world are always on the move. This is important to consider when buying insurance and is one of the major differences between local and international medical insurance. Local medical insurance will stop covering you when you leave a country, so whether you're moving residence or traveling, your protection stops at the border. International medical insurance plans cover large geographic areas and are transportable between countries. This means that you are always protected, wherever you are going in the world.
  • As we get older, we often have more long-term illnesses or conditions we have to cope with. In most cases, local insurance policies have an age limit (usually the age of 65) at which point they will either not allow you to purchase new cover or stop covering you entirely. Most international medical insurance plans are joinable before the age of 75 and are guaranteed renewable for life, so your protection lasts as long as you need it to.
  • Local medical insurance and international plans have different ways of calculating your premium when it is time to renew your policy. Local insurance plans base your renewal premium on the amount of claims made during the policy year, meaning that if you had an accident or were very sick, your renewal premium would skyrocket. International medical insurance plans' premiums are rated on the basis of everyone within the same age group as you. Your renewal premium is calculated on the community average, and you won't be punished by your premium for making a claim.
  • Local medical insurance will grant you comprehensive cover, provided you are within the country where the local insurance policy is issued. But it is important to note that once you step outside the borders of the country, your insurance policy will no longer cover you. International medical insurance on the other hand is not so limited in geographic coverage. There are many expatriates who live in developing countries where the quality of care may not be considered adequate by western standards. If you are on a local insurance plan, you will not be able to travel to a better equipped country to receive treatment.
  • Because international medical insurance plans have to operate in many countries, they have often organized global networks of hospitals and medical facilities with which they can arrange treatment and direct settlement. Local insurance plans tend to be rather limited in terms of direct settlement network; in so far as if they have a network it tends to have a smaller number of facilities in them. Most international medical insurance plans have a more extended network, allowing you a larger pool of doctors and facilities to choose from.
  • It is regrettable that any medical insurance policy will have exclusions associated with it. In the majority of cases though, international medical insurance polices have less outright exclusions attached to their plans than local policies regularly do. Here is a list of the most common exclusions that can be found in an international medical insurance policy.

The major draw of a local health insurance plan is that they are usually not as expensive as an international health insurance plan, at least at the time the policy is taken out. International medical insurance plans have a number of advantages over a local health insurance plan which are of particular benefit to expatriates, and international plans regularly afford you a more comprehensive level of coverage in the long run.

The list above highlights some of the major differences between local and international medical insurance plans. International medical insurance plans can provide you more comprehensive protection in both cost and coverage than you may find in a local plan. If you would like more information about an international medical insurance plan please get in contact with one of our dedicated advisers today.

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