Retiring overseas? Health issues to consider

Long term health insurance in another country is an area UK expatriates will often not have considered in any detail, especially when it comes to retirement. Our own research suggests many UK nationals who retire abroad think that they will be fully covered locally via what used be known as the E111 facility. Few will be aware that a new system, the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) has replaced the old E111 and that from 1 January 2006, E111s are no longer valid. Whilst the European Health Insurance Card entitles residents to reduced-cost and sometimes free medical treatment in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, April International UK warns that it should not be seen as a replacement for proper, comprehensive health insurance.

Debbie Purser, CEO, April International comments, “The retirement market is one which our experience tells us is likely to be more sensitive to claims than the norm, This is partly a function of age, but from a psychological perspective, if a client is feeling unwell, they are less likely to take a risk with their health abroad than if they were in the UK, where friends and family might be on hand to help take care of them. In practice, this means they will probably go to the doctor more often.”

Debbie Purser continues, “There has been quite a lot of press coverage recently about the way in which people just rely upon the European Health Insurance Card (the old E111), in the mistaken believe that in the event of serious ill health, they can return to their country of birth and once again access the state system. Our advice to anyone planning overseas retirement is to budget for some element of international health insurance, preferably with a 24 hour assistance facility to assist with both foreign language and of course to access to hospitals and doctors in country. It is important to remember that complete or top up individual PMI is vital in some countries. Even if they are going to a country that has a reciprocal healthcare agreement with the UK, they may still need to pay for medical treatment. None of the healthcare agreements cover the cost of bringing a person back to the UK in the event of illness or death.”

The retired expatriate market is one which presents many challenges for insurances companies. April International UK can insure new applicants from age 65 years, right up to and beyond age 80 years. Inevitably there are some limitations to the cover and in particular, April International UK will medically underwrite all new applicants age 65 years and above. In effect this means that pre-existing conditions declared on the medical questionnaire would be excluded from future cover.