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Healthcare Considerations for Expats: What You Need to Know
— September 15, 2016
We all know our health is important, yet healthcare often becomes an afterthought when planning an overseas move. If you currently live in a country with high-quality healthcare, it’s easy to take access to good, affordable medical services for granted. Here are some key points to consider when researching healthcare in your new home.
How Good is the Healthcare System in Your New Home?
You probably already know that healthcare quality can vary significantly from country to country. In some cases, the healthcare standards in your new home might be as good or even better than those in your current one. Colombia, Uruguay, Malaysia, and Thailand are just a few examples of countries where you can expect to find clean, modern hospitals and well-trained doctors. Some of these countries are popular destinations for medical tourism, because visitors can expect to receive excellent care at lower costs than they would pay in their home countries.
In other cases, healthcare standards may not be as high as they are in your home country. These standards might be lower across the board, or there may just be a large disparity between good and bad hospitals. The good ones, of course, are almost always the most expensive. Find out whether it’s better to visit private hospitals or use the public healthcare system in your new home. You can often get a list of suggested local doctors and hospitals from your embassy or consulate, or you can also reach out to other expats in your new community for recommendations.
How Much Will It Cost?
If you’re relocating abroad for work, you may receive health insurance through your employer. Keep in mind, however, that these plans often do not become effective immediately. It’s a good idea to purchase a global health insurance policy to cover the initial few weeks or months after your move.
If you’re moving abroad to study, retire, volunteer, or won’t be receiving health insurance through an employer for some other reason, you have a few different options for healthcare. You do have the choice, of course, of opting out of medical coverage completely. If the local healthcare system is relatively low-cost, some expats -- particularly those with no chronic medical issues -- simply choose to pay directly for any medical care they require. This can be a risky option. Even in countries where healthcare is fairly affordable, the cost of an extended hospital stay can add up quickly if you experience a serious health issue or injury. Expat health insurance is a much safer option, which can help you avoid a financial burden should you need unexpected medical care while you’re abroad.
You might also choose to buy private insurance in your new country. Or, once you establish residency status, you may be eligible for the universal healthcare available in certain countries. If you’re planning to split your time between two countries, or travel frequently after you relocate, it’s a good idea to supplement either of these options with international health insurance.
Choosing how to handle medical expenses in your new country is a very personal decision, and it’s important to research your options thoroughly so you can make the choice that’s right for you.
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