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Expatriate health care: international versus national insurance

When you start a new life abroad, there are often so many things to do that ensuring you get medical care may be at the bottom of the list. A surprising number of expats find themselves in trouble each year when they try to offset their health care costs with travel insurance, not knowing that they are not covered by certain procedures and end up paying a lot of money. To ensure that you are prepared, you should purchase additional health insurance if this happens. However, there are a few different options to choose from and it can be difficult to determine which one is right for you.

Expatriate health insurance is generally divided into two categories: international health insurance and national health insurance. This tends to reduce many factors, including lifestyle and whether you have any pre-existing health problems. In addition to paying medical bills that are excluded from some care packages, some expats may find themselves paying far more than they need on insurance plans that are too detailed. To help keep things simple, we've divided the differences between the two types of insurance to help you choose the option that best meets your needs.

Private international health insurance

If you often travel between countries for work, or even just for fun, it is definitely worth getting an international health insurance policy. This will cover you wherever you go and even give you access to some additional services that may not be included in a local plan, like dental and maternity care. It generally provides you with a wide range of hospitals and better access to English-speaking doctors for these reasons, it is recommended that you follow an international policy if you have any pre-existing conditions, as it will guarantee you access to the best care and treatment. Some packages even cover you in the unlikely event of natural disasters or terrorist attacks, and offer repatriation in the event of a medical emergency when you need to return home.

However, it should be noted that some additional features, such as maternity care, require that you have already been covered for a period of time of at least 6 to 12 months. Also, be sure to implement a plan that excludes the US if you don't plan to spend time there because including it in your package can significantly increase costs.

Local private health insurance

National health insurance plans are designed to keep you covered in your country of residence and the costs are generally much lower than international insurance plans. Some local plans even keep you insured when you travel elsewhere, but this is often limited to specific countries and for a specific period of time. National health insurance is often provided through government insurance providers that provide access to state-run services or through a private local health insurance company that provides access to private facilities.

If you are a citizen of the European Economic Area or Switzerland, you should bear in mind that if you move or travel to another of these countries, you have the right to healthcare for expatriates at the same price as a citizen of that country in possession of a TSE card. This is generally limited to necessary or emergency treatment, and waiting times are often much longer. Therefore, it is often helpful to use a separate home insurance plan as well.