Moving abroad as an expat is an exciting experience and a huge new chapter in your life. However, it’s easy to get caught up in all the excitement and forget about some of the more logistical matters that need to be taken care of before you hop on that airplane.
One of the most important arrangements to be made, by far, are insurances, and especially your health insurance abroad. Trust me, you want to make sure that you’re fully protected for your new life abroad, so that if an unexpected emergency were to occur, you have the support of an insurance plan ready to back you up!
Health insurance for expats can be a confusing and intimidating task. However, it’s really not too difficult, and luckily there are plenty of options and resources for expats in need of medical insurance. In addition to online resources, you should become familiar with the medical services nearby wherever you will be living. Figure out where the closest hospital is and look into reputable doctor offices in your area.
There are plenty more tips to give on this topic, and if you’re finding yourself confused in your efforts to get insurance, you’ve come to the right place. Not only do we happen to know a lot about what it’s like to live abroad, but we have also devised a guide including important things to remember when getting health insurance as an expat:
Which kind of insurance?
You have three options: local, private, and expat insurance.
First and foremost, check the health insurance that you already have in your home country. They might have an international plan, or options that could at least help until you establish local coverage. Often private companies will provide insurance while you are abroad. However, this is usually only for a short amount of time, and may not offer full coverage. If you look into private plans in the country you are moving to, however, you might find it to be a more convenient option based on the benefits of not having to wait many months to acquire coverage or having to fill tons of government issued paperwork. You may also have access to higher quality medical care through a private plan.
If you’re someone who is going to be moving around a lot, or if you cannot afford private healthcare, definitely look into an expat health insurance plan. These plans will typically cover expats regardless of which country you’re in, as they are designed for those who are frequenting different destinations. Expat health insurance can also be great for those who do not fluently speak the local language, as support is usually offered in multiple languages.
Local healthcare often cannot be accessed until you’re actually living in the country. For example, in France, you must join the social security system or visit your local CPAM (Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie) before you can apply for a Carte Vitale (Health insurance card).
Really Understand Your Insurance Option. Is it Missing Anything?
Be sure that the medical insurance you choose provides full coverage! You don’t want to be in a situation where you’re dealing with a medical emergency, or need a particular prescription, only to find out that your insurance won’t cover that specific issue. If you go for private or expat health plans specifically, these should be designed to avoid any gaps in insurance until you’re able to establish social security in your new country and acquire local healthcare. In general, expect the process of getting local health insurance to possibly take a while. This is why it is absolutely crucial to arrange expat or private insurance prior to your move!
Every country will have their own system
While the tips we are providing you will be productive regardless of the country you’re moving to, you should also keep in mind that there is no “universal” system, and that each country will have their own factors to follow. For example, in some countries, such as France , or Switzerland or Germany, it will actually be a legal requirement for you to sign up to local health insurance as soon as you’re eligible. In these scenarios, you will have to make monthly payments to the government, which are deducted from your salary.
You should also consider the quality of healthcare when you plan your move abroad. Health insurance, as emphasized before, is incredibly important, and you want to make sure that you are able to get the care you need wherever you are moving, especially if you are someone dealing with a pre-existing condition. Make sure that you can access healthcare in the first place. In some countries, you might require temporary or permanent residence status before you can access any local healthcare. In this situation, you need to know this fact ahead of time, so that you have your private or expat insurance organized in advance.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask your Employer for Help
Some employers will help expats in need of health insurance by assisting them with the social security registration process. So, it’s worth reaching out to your employer to see what they might be able to do, or at the very least if they have any advice. Sometimes, companies will even have their own health insurance plan that they assign and take care of for you!
However, while this sounds like it could be a more convenient and affordable option (and in many cases it is) you still need to make sure that you carefully review what this plan entails. Just because your employer is offering it, doesn’t mean it is the right plan for you. For example, does the insurance cover family members as well? Will it cover the needs of a specific medical condition you may have? These are all crucial factors. Do your research and compare all your options.
Getting ready to move abroad is a process which can include a lot of steps and important factors to keep in mind- which is why the Next Station team is here to help with all things expat related! We want to make sure that your journey abroad is exactly what you hope for it to be. So, do not hesitate to reach out and ask any questions you might have related to health insurance abroad, finding a job abroad, finding accomodation abroad, making friends abroad, and anything else you might need assistance with.