5 Tips for Expats on Getting the Right Medical Cover
At the start of another year, many of us will be evaluating our lives and how they could be improved. For some, 2015 will bring a new job or career abroad – perhaps realising a long-held dream. But while this is an exciting step to take, there are numerous preparations to undergo in order to make the transition into expat life a smooth one.
One crucial element on any expat’s to-do list is taking out medical insurance, and the easiest way to go about this is online through a price comparison site. However, research by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) into these sites has revealed that they may not actually be as straightforward as they first appear. The financial services watchdog warns that these sites could be issuing users the wrong cover with a hefty price tag attached.
Expats rely heavily on online information and are regular users of the internet to make these kinds of purchases. In fact, it is thought that at least 50% of all medical cover bought by expats is done so via the web.
The FCA has highlighted that many expats wrongly believe that price comparison websites are giving them the most competitive quotes for insurance tailored to their needs. This, unfortunately, is not the case.
The problem with expats being sold the wrong cover lies in the fact that medical cover is so complex. Unlike comparing the credentials of a washing machine or car insurance, health cover cannot easily be compared like-for-like. There is no list of core benefits and nothing is defined in law. And while they are a popular solution for people looking for insurance in the UK, these sites are still in their infancy in the international health insurance sector.
However, if you are looking to buy health cover as an expat, there are certain things you can do to avoid falling into the most common traps.
- Take your time: Do not purchase medical cover (or any other complex products or services, for that matter) online without first speaking to someone about it.
- It’s fine to be brand disloyal: Just because you have previously taken out insurance with a particular company while in the UK doesn’t mean they can offer you a tailor-made health care policy that will suit your expat requirements. Basing your decision on brand could lead to inadequate cover.
- Do plenty of research: If it is the first time you are buying health cover in another country (and, surprisingly, for 90% of international customers it is), make sure you fully understand the cover included in the product and the terms attached to it. Talk to a number of insurers and explore all your options. It is also worth looking for companies that offer a good post-sales service.
- Look beyond price: It may not be your primary criterion, but a competitive price does have a certain appeal. However, do not be swayed by an apparent bargain. The cheapest option available is unlikely to be the most suitable for complex international requirements.
- Be specific: Make sure you are purchasing cover that is tailored to the country you are in. For example, some countries require the insurance provider to be licensed in order for it to meet local immigration requirements.
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Information correct at time of publication.