What's the Best Health Insurance for Expats and Retirees?

Guest Article by Anne Saul

You're excited about retiring abroad and the last you want to think about is health insurance. I hear you. But, like it or not, one downside to being an expat is that you lose the health cover from your home country.

If you are currently resident in a European country or in Switzerland you will not be able to use your European Health Insurance Card because this is meant for temporary stays and will be cancelled once you leave the country. 

Likewise, many health insurance policies only provide cover on a national basis. For example, the American Medicaid policy will only insure you within the USA. That's why it's important to choose a policy that covers you wherever you are.

To make it easier, we've compared some of the most popular international medical insurance providers for you.

What's the best health insurance for expats and retirees living abroad?

Health Insurance for Expats: Allianz

Allianz Worldwide Healthcare offer an international private healthcare plan.

The Essential Plan: This includes access to a semi-private hospital room, medical evaluations and oncology care if you are diagnosed with cancer. You also have the option of supplementing your policy to allow for outpatient care, dental care and a repatriation plan.

However, this plan is fairly basic and doesn't include emergency outpatient treatment. As health problems become more likely with age, their classic plan may be more suitable.

The Classic Plan:  This features all the benefits of the essential plan with the added advantages of access to a private room and free accident and emergency care. Just as with the essential plan, you can top up to include dental and outpatient treatment. Maximum benefit is up to €1,125,000 (ca. US $1,300,000).

Both plans fund the cost of temporary convalescence in a nursing home, rehabilitation treatment, local ambulance charges, intensive care treatment, surgical fees, consultant fees, diagnostic scans and prescription medicines you might need. 

Pre-existing and chronic conditions are excluded from the policy and it does not cover anyone who is moving to the U.S, where healthcare costs are typically higher.

AXA PPP Expat Health Insurance

Comprehensive Plan - AXA PPP's comprehensive international plan includes cover for outpatient treatment such as diagnostic tests, minor outpatient surgeries, consultation charges, medicines and dressings, scans, cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy and access to Chinese herbal medicine, if wanted.

The policy also covers hospital inpatient charges, surgery charges, kidney dialysis, dental care, eye care and treatment for chronic conditions. A repatriation service is included.  The maximum coverage amount for the plan is €1,900,000 or US $ 2,400,000) per year.

AXA PPP's Prestige and Prestige Plus includes palliative care and the policies have a higher maximum coverage amount compared with the comprehensive plan.

Pre-existing conditions, sports injuries and cosmetic dental treatment are excluded from the plans.

Bupa Global Healthcare Plan

Bupa offer the Bupa Global healthcare plan giving you access to Bupa health checks, cancer diagnosis, treatment, aftercare, dental and optical services.

Use the "What is your country of residence" search function on their homepage to find out which health plan option Bupa recommends for your country. For the USA, for example, they refer you to another provider, HTH Worldwide / GeoBlue. 

If you find you need care that is not available in the country you have emigrated too, Bupa Global has the advantage of providing an evacuation service.

They'll get you to wherever you need to go for the treatment you require. They also provide a 24 hour, multi-lingual medical service so if you don't speak the language, you don't need to panic.

Cigna International Medical Insurance

The Cigna International Medical Insurance policy covers outpatient and inpatient costs, intensive care, coronary care or high dependency unit costs, consultant fees, surgery fees, inpatient treatment relating to organ transplantation, diagnostic tests including MRI and CT scans, physiotherapy, emergency dental treatment and prescription medication charges.

Cigna's policies have the added advantage of mental health coverage and complimentary therapies; if you love the benefits of chiropractic and other alternative treatments, you can access a selection of them on your insurance plan.

There are three different levels of cover:

  • Silver - The most basic level of cover has a maximum benefit of €800,000 or US $1,000,000 per year.  
  • Gold - This intermediate level of cover has a maximum benefit of €1,600,000 or US $2,000,000 per year.
  • Platinum - This all inclusive level of cover is unlimited.

IMG Global Medical Insurance

IMG global medical insurance also provide long term health insurance for expats worldwide, including the United States. 

There are various levels of cover, Bronze, Silver, Gold, Gold Plus and Platinum.  Insurance includes outpatient visits, X-rays, dental care, vision care, mental health care, ambulance costs, evacuation to another hospital in the event your treatment isn't available and repatriation.

The Gold, Gold Plus and Platinum plans also include cover for herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage therapy, aromatherapy, magnetic therapy and vitamin therapy.

How do these companies compare in terms of cost? I've used BrokerFish.com to compare quotes. The quotes below are for a 62 year old individual living in Nicaragua (September 2016).

There's quite a range in monthly premiums, deductibles and maximum benefits between these companies. Medical benefits also vary, but they all cover in-patient and out-patient treatment. 

Health Insurance for Expats: Cost ComparisonHealth Insurance for Expats Comparison (Source: BrokerFish.com)

Health Insurance for Expats: Age Restrictions

Insider Tip

Use a comparison site like Brokerfish.com to find out which health insurance for expats best meets your needs, and to compare prices. 

The risk of health complications increases with age, so health insurance companies impose greater restrictions and higher premiums. 

IMG for example accepts applicants up to 74 years of age, whereas Cigna has no age limitations. Many health insurance providers bury this information somewhere in their policies, so it's best to contact them and ask up to what age you can apply.

Some companies will allow you to continue as a customer if you pay increased fees, some reduce the benefits on an existing policy and some will allow you to purchase an additional senior citizen policy to meet your needs.

Travel Insurance for Expats

Are you covered for medical and dental expenses during your "retirement test-drives" or vacation trips? Word Nomads offer simple and flexible travel insurance at competitive prices. If your travel plans change, and you're staying longer overseas than expected, you can easily buy a policy extension online.

In fact, you can even buy coverage while you are already traveling. Just enter your details below for a quote (don't worry, you don't have to enter your email to get the quote).

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