International health insurance : 12 tips to choose the best

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Know your needs… And your budget

Choosing the right international health insurance policy means knowing your needs! So you’ll need to ask yourself the right questions… and plan! What will happen if you have an accident or illness abroad or in your country tomorrow? Are you the only one concerned or is it a question of protecting your loved ones as well? Do you have a maternity project? Do you need a death/disability lump sum or is it simply to cover expenses in the event of hospitalization?


As it is considered that a maximum of 30% of a monthly budget should be devoted to housing, 10% at most should be dedicated to health protection, providence, and retirement. This will allow everyone to reasonably set a budget. Finally, there are general solutions for every wallet and every stage of life!

The scope of the guarantees

All contracts are built on the same principle: a compulsory basic guarantee that covers expenses in the event of hospitalization. Most international health contracts cover 100% of the actual costs, with generally high and sufficient ceilings (check this out in certain countries such as the USA, Singapore, etc., where treatment is extremely expensive). However, some ceilings will remain insufficient if you like a luxury.


As an option, you will be able to cover the expenses of current medicine, dental care, optics, maternity, and of course medical evacuation (or repatriation). Again, for each item, you will have to check the “annual limits of coverage”: be reasonable and tell yourself that you don’t take out a health insurance contract to change glasses every year… Finally, some items are more important than others!


Most companies offer a choice between three options for international health insurance: worldwide, worldwide except the USA, Africa only. The segmentation can sometimes be finer, hence the interest to compare! For example, if you chose a “world except for the USA” health insurance option, you will not be able to be hospitalized in the USA. However, in principle, you will be covered there for your short stays and in case of an accident or unexpected illness.

Life insurance guarantee or fixed-term contract?

If you are going abroad for a long time (more than 12 months for example), it is recommended that you take out a “tacit renewal” insurance contract with life cover. This means that once your application has been accepted, the insurer will not be able to cancel the contract even if you suffer from a “long-term” illness. This is the guarantee of being covered for the rest of your life.


A fixed-term insurance contract (or a limited-term insurance contract as found in some countries) is much less expensive but its possible renewal is at the insurer’s discretion: in other words, if you cost him more than you bring him, the insurer is not obliged to extend his guarantee! This can, therefore, be very problematic in the event of the occurrence of a serious illness.


Will pre-existing pathologies be covered?

Before granting its guarantee and confirming a tariff, the insurer (who is there, we remind you, to offer competitive products to its customers, deliver a promise and make a profit) will check that the potential insured does not subscribe out of opportunism! Selecting risks is the basis of the business and the future insured will, therefore, complete a medical questionnaire. Weight, height, consumption of alcohol or cigarettes, past illnesses, after-effects of accidents, current treatment, or family history will be studied by the insurer’s doctors who can refuse or accept a file without having to justify themselves. Non-standard health profiles may be subject to increases or specific exclusions may be proposed to the insured.

Some companies (usually British) have a different approach and accept pre-existing conditions after a two-year “moratorium”. It is important to understand the logic of health insurance. In the same way that everyone understands that it is not after the car accident that one should think about getting insurance…


Does the health insurance contract provide for deductibles and waiting periods?

The premium proposed by the insurer will also depend on the “deductibles”: the amount that the insured agrees to keep at his expense. To reduce your annual premium, you can, for example, choose to be reimbursed only 80% or 90% for “ordinary medicine”. This deductible is generally appreciated by the insurer because it “moralizes” consumption: it is also called co-insurance. Another point to consider: from when will you be covered? Usually, coverage is immediate in case of accident and illness. Only certain positions will only be granted after a waiting period: maternity (generally 10 months), dental prostheses, or psychiatry.


Services offered by the insurer and errors not to be made

Each insurer strives for service excellence and provides 365/365 platforms. This healthy competition gives the consumer great security of mind and the best services in case of an emergency or a simple consultation with a general practitioner, anywhere in the world.

The difficulties are more often due to the policyholder’s failure to comply with the procedures put in place by the insurer: these must be strictly followed, whether to request coverage in the event of hospitalization or reimbursement after the fact in the case of a general practitioner.

Some insurers now stand out in terms of service by offering policyholders the possibility of scanning their documents and sending them by e-mail: a great step forward when you consider how much the Internet makes life easier for expatriates, even at the other end of the world! Most companies also offer (free of charge or not) to split the premium: think about “automating” the payment (direct debit, credit card, or scheduled transfers) because if you don’t pay on time, your contract could be terminated: the consequences can be serious.

The annual health insurance.

Finally, and you will have understood it, the cheapest contract will not necessarily be the one to look for… the opposite either! Be careful with a price list that can be misleading… because it is misunderstood! However, you will be able to spot significant rate differences (from 30 to 50%) because each insurer has its target and segmentation. It is therefore worth comparing, especially when changing location (geographical, family, needs to be covered…).

Despite everything, be philosophical: there is a strong chance that the price of your contract will increase every year. Inflation of medical care in the world and longer life expectancy (including yours!): over time, you will probably be led to “consume” more and more care, which will become more and more expensive! However, some companies offer discounts if you don’t use your contract: an encouragement to virtue! Before changing insurance companies, you should, in any case, be sure not to leave the prey in the shade: respect the contractual cancellation deadlines and confirmation of acceptance by the new insurer.


Understand the medical evacuation or repatriation guarantee

Most international health contracts offer, as standard or as an option, a 24-hour assistance cover, also known as medical evacuation or medical repatriation, which offers the insured the possibility of being evacuated to his or her native country. It is true that in an emergency, the insured, like his or her family, generally prefers the sick or injured person to return “home”. But the aim of the guarantee is first and foremost to do everything possible to save the life of an insured person when this is not possible locally. Does the proposed contract offer medical evacuation (to the nearest suitable place) or repatriation (to the native country when possible)?

In all cases, two doctors will implement this guarantee: the one in charge of the patient locally and the one in charge of the assistant. The insured therefore chooses neither the time nor the conditions of the intervention! Once the decision has been made, the operation can be carried out on a regular airline flight (generally in business class and with a doctor on secondment for the trip) or a medical plane if necessary. It is once again imperative to respect the procedures of the insurer and not to decide or finance anything without his agreement. All assistance contracts include the repatriation of the body in the event of death and sometimes the return of the insured in the event of the illness or death of a loved one.