Updated: Apr 6
Living overseas is often an expensive endeavor for individuals and families who plan to work, retire or travel abroad for over one year. Perhaps the most important decisions before you live abroad or even if you are already an expat is what global health insurance you should obtain, the insurer you will choose and the plan coverage options.
There are many expat health insurance companies and providers to choose from and endless insurance options that can very be confusing for expatriates. Here are five ways expats can save on their international health insurance premiums and coverage:
1. Choose a Larger Deductible
A deductible is what you pay before the insurance company pays a claim. Generally, the deductible is per policy year or you may have a small co-pay for each claim. For expatriates wanting to save on their global health costs, the easiest and most effective way to save on global health premiums is to select a larger deductible. The larger the deductible the lower the premium and vice versa. Some expats will select a $5K or $10K deductible as they do not think they will ever claim or they live in a country with low medical costs. However, do consider if your deductible is affordable, in the event that you should need to make a claim.
2. Exclude Coverage in the USA
Plans that include full medical care in the USA are almost always more expensive than plans that exclude the USA. Most American expatriates will want a plan to include care in the United States as they will want to receive care there for any serious medical claims. However, excluding care in the USA can save an expat somewhere between 40% or 50% on their medical premiums. If you do not wish to be able to seek medical care in the States, it makes sense to not choose the USA coverage option. If you are living in a country close to the USA, it may be wise to add the option as you may want to seek medical care there, especially in the case of an evacuation.
3. Pay Your Premium Annually
Research finds that most expatriates like to pay their premiums monthly as the annual premiums can be quite large, but if you can afford to pay annually you can often save between 5% to 10% per year on your global health premiums. You can also pay semi-annually for additional savings over paying monthly.
4. Self-Insure Out-Patient Care
Most global health plans will include a base policy that covers claims related to hospital care. You will have the option to add out-patient care for an additional fee. Out-patient medical will cover medical claims that are incurred outside a hospital admission - such as doctor visits and consults, medicine, physiotherapy, psychology, wellness, medical tests and scans, dental accidents, vaccinations and more. However, many expatriates live in countries and regions where medical care is quite inexpensive, especially for out-patient claims like doctor visits. Excluding out-patient modules can save expats hundreds of dollars in premiums per month and should be considered when selecting a plan.
5. Add Coinsurance to Your Plan
In addition to having a larger deductible, some plans will allow you to add coinsurance to your plan. Coinsurance is the percentage that you as the insured member will pay in the event of a claim. The higher the coinsurance level, the less risk you are taking and the higher the premium. For example, if you have a coinsurance level of 80%, you would be responsible for paying 20% of claims - usually up to a maximum out of pocket amount. A 90% coinsurance level would be more expensive and if you are covered at 100%, you don't have to pay a portion of the approved claim. The coinsurance is active after the deductible has been satisfied.
6. Choose a Lower Level of Coverage from the Insurer
Most expat health plans will have 3 or 5 different levels of coverage with varying degrees of care maximums and
services covered, for example: Silver, Gold or Platinum. As you would guess, the least expensive plan would be the Silver plan, which will have much lower levels of care, such as excluding maternity coverage.
Things to Consider When Choosing Your Plan?
Are there more ways to save money on your international health insurance? Yes, but these generally involve you doing your research, consulting with an insurance professional and taking on a lot more risk with only small premium savings. We recommend that you purchase the best possible global health insurance plan that you can afford. In the end, you generally get what you pay for.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David G. Tompkins is the President of TFG Global Insurance Solutions Ltd. and operator of Expat Financial. David has written and spoken extensively around the world on global insurance matters and runs an independent international insurance brokerage. There are no costs to use TFG’s services as they are paid by the insurer that you choose at the same rates regardless.