Choosing the Right Expat Health Insurance: 5 things to consider

Contributed by Cigna Global, 04 October, 2016

When relocating to a new country, ensuring that healthcare will be available for you and your family is a must. That's why a good health cover is important no matter where you are, but what factors should you consider when choosing a policy? Should you opt for public or private health insurance, or even go for an international plan?

Cigna Global, specialists in expat healthcare, have gathered the following tips to help you find out what to consider for ensuring your healthcare abroad.


  1. Research the country-specific factors.

    It's key to research the implications for expatriates in your new country of residence, as all the home comforts you've come to expect may not necessarily be available to you. Start by finding out if you will be eligible to receive public healthcare in your host country, and if there are any exceptions.

    The quality of State-provided healthcare varies from country to country, with some major differences in waiting times, cost, and accessibility for expats. Some countries have very specific rules about who can use public health services, and in some cases you may need permanent residency before you can enter the system.

    Ensuring that you understand well the local regulations and their implications will set the base for you to make an informed decision.

  2. If you are moving abroad with a job, find out if you're covered by your employer.

    More often than not, expats are sent abroad by an employer and covered under the company's health insurance plan. If this is the case for you, find out what your insurance plan covers and if it is the right policy for you. In other cases, expats are not covered by a company's policy but are able to get an insurance clause included in their contract.

    Make sure you fully understand the insurance offered by your employer. Find out if your policy includes family members. If you have any pre-existing conditions, make sure you know whether these are covered by the policy.

  3. Make sure there are no gaps in your coverage.

    You may be fortunate enough to access subsidised healthcare in your new country of residence, but take into account that most public healthcare systems are not all-encompassing.

    Your home country may have a reciprocal healthcare agreement with your host country – find out if this is the case, and if so, what it means to you in terms of coverage. This type of agreement is usually designed to cover you in the event of medical emergencies, so you might need to purchase a policy to complement your cover and gain complete access to healthcare services in the country.

    For many expats it works best to take up a private health plan that offers a comprehensive coverage to secure your peace of mind and save you out-of-pocket expenses.

  4. National or International plan?

    Globally mobile citizens often require an international plan to cover them in the many countries they frequent. If you are one of them, you may want to consider an international policy rather than a local one.

    Some private plans offer coverage abroad, although for a limited time only. If you have private insurance in your home country, speak to your provider before your move; check if the plan will cover you in your new host country and for how long.

    You may have travel insurance in place, but bear in mind these policies are designed for short stays and to cover only for a medical emergency. Depending on the length of your stay, you may want to ensure a more sufficient healthcare option, such as a private international policy.

    Finally, consider the possible language barrier. Understanding your policy documentation and being able to talk to a customer service representative is vital when dealing with your health queries. Many expats are more comfortable with an international health insurance company that offers support in English or another familiar language.

  5. Choose a plan tailored to your needs

    When purchasing a private policy, consider all the above and try to choose a plan specifically made to suit your needs.

    International health insurance companies like Cigna Global offer a wide range of levels of expat medical insurance cover. Individual private medical insurance (IPMI) policies can often be advantageous to expats, as many of the benefits within these policies have been tailored specifically to suit their needs.

    Here are some basic factors you may need to keep in mind when choosing a policy: Does it fit the specific needs of you and your family? How are pre-existing conditions handled? Are there age restrictions? Does it provide international coverage? What are the exclusions?

    Research, compare, and consider the costs. Be sure to ask your insurer the right questions before making a decision, and you will surely find the right policy for you and your family.

Visit for more information on Individual Private Medical Insurance.

Tags: expatriates | Insurance | regulation | services | public health | insurance |



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