Some expats take a risk with no medical cover, others just want the cheapest possible policy. Unfortunately, neither is a good strategy. We look at the reasons why.
Medical insurance: do I really need it?
We get it. Times are hard and many of us are looking to cut costs where we can. But skimping on medical insurance is not the way to go. None of us can predict when we will need expensive medical care and it is vital for peace of mind to know that you and your family will have access to the best possible treatment if you need it.
There are good ways to cut costs: going out less, cancelling unused subscriptions, switching to own-brand products… you’ll find plenty of ideas here.
And there are bad ways to cut costs: doing without medical insurance, opting for the cheapest medical insurance policy without considering other factors.
Medical insurance is a must-have for all expats in Asia and selecting health insurance on price alone is not a good strategy.
Why is medical insurance essential for expats in Asia?
State-funded public health insurance options tend to be very limited in Asia.
If you need medical treatment due to an accident or illness and you don’t have health insurance, you’ll be faced with some stark options.
You may be able to access care in a public hospital. This may be inexpensive compared to private care, but costs will still mount up if you are seriously ill. And standards will almost certainly not be on a par with what you will find in Europe or the US. You may come across problems such as a lack of equipment and highly trained staff, questionable hygiene standards, few or no English-speaking staff and poor availability of care.
Your backup plan may be to go back home if you need serious medical treatment. But it’s not always that simple. Travelling when seriously ill can be an expensive business with specialist equipment often required. And then there are the practicalities to consider. Who will go with you? If you have children in school and a partner who works, it’s not that easy to just up and leave. And who do you have to support you back home? Let’s face it, there are a lot of flaws in this supposed plan.
A better strategy is to budget and pay for a medical insurance policy that meets your needs. That won’t necessarily be the cheapest policy available but neither does it need to cost a fortune. It is possible to balance cover and affordability by considering different factors.
Medical insurance in Asia: five factors to consider when choosing a policy
- How comprehensive do you want the care need to be?
The non-negotiables that we recommend for everyone are primary care (e.g. GP visits), hospital inpatient care, consultations and diagnostic tests.
Recommended additional cover will depend on your personal circumstances and those of your family. If you are expecting a baby or if you suffer from a particular disease or chronic illness such as diabetes you will need to ensure those are covered.
- Local or international?
An international policy that gives you higher payment ceilings and worldwide coverage will be more costly. While it is important that your policy covers you everywhere that you live, work and travel, you may be able to make savings by excluding certain territories, such as the USA.
How much of any claim will you have to cover out of your own pocket? This is a factor that can heavily influence your premium. You can opt for zero deductibles but that will make your policy more expensive. If price is an issue agreeing to a higher deductible can be one way to get your premium down.
- Payment flexibility
If cost is an issue, it can be helpful to spread payments over the course of a year instead of making a one-off annual payment. Many insurers offer this flexibility.
- Is evacuation necessary?
In certain Asian countries, even the best private hospitals may not offer the most effective treatments available for all medical conditions. For specialist treatment it may be necessary to travel further afield to Hong Kong, Singapore or Thailand. Cover for evacuation treatment is nice to have but it may be an area where you can compromise if affordability is an issue.
Finding the best medical insurance in Asia
Getting the balance between cover and affordability can be difficult. A professional financial adviser will be able to suggest where savings can be made without compromising on what is most important for you and your family.
They will explain anything you don’t understand to ensure there are no nasty surprises concerning deductibles payable, exclusions that apply and issues linked to pre-existing conditions which could render a policy null and void.
Infinity works with all the major international insurers and our advisors are ideally placed to help you compare policies and find the best medical insurance for you and your family.
Expat health insurance should be a top priority for all expats. Contact us today to protect your family, whatever life throws your way!
A leading provider of expat financial services and wealth management services across Asia.