Expats are unlikely to find travel or holiday insurance cover as a cure for the ills if they have a medical emergency while living overseas, according to industry experts.
Travel insurance is aimed to cover travellers away from Britain for up to a year, while expat medical insurance is a special policy for people leaving the UK for at least a year.
Expat medical cover is a tailor-made policy that takes into account the likely health needs of single expats or families in the country where they intend to live or work.
Healthcare provision and likely routine and emergency treatments can vary between countries, explains specialist provider Expatriate Healthcare.
Expat medical insurance aims to offer value-for-money cover, including maternity cover, eye care and dental care as additional extras.
Forget free healthcare
The firm suggests that expats should arrange the cover before leaving the UK rather than waiting until they are settled overseas, as the premium is likely to be cheaper.
A spokesman also warned that travel insurance rather than expat medical cover will only cover emergency treatment for 12 months. Any consultation or treatment costs for non-emergencies must be paid for by the traveller as the insurer will not foot the bill.
“Healthcare can be expensive in many overseas countries, especially the USA,” said the spokesman.
“Most foreign health services will treat expats as foreigners, so any free healthcare is probably unavailable except in some European countries.
“Standards of care and treatment are also very different between countries, which is why medical evacuation and comprehensive cover to gain access to the best doctors and hospitals is important.”
Shop around for cover
Most expat medical cover will include the costs of emergency and non-emergency consultations with a doctor and any treatments.
However, some policies have financial caps, so it is important to shop around for the right policy.
The cheapest medical cover is not necessarily the best to cover an expat’s needs, especially if they are travelling with children.
“The level of cover, number of people covered and the expat destination all have a bearing on cost,” said the spokesman. “Some people try to cut corners with cost, but you never know if you are going to be in an accident and need expensive treatment even if you are young and in the best of health.”
Another important point is to declare any pre-existing conditions to make sure the policy offers the most appropriate cover if the worst should happen.