What to Consider When Buying Health Insurance Overseas

August 19, 2015

in health insurance, moving abroad

Buying private health insurance for a move abroad can be a real headache, no matter where you’re relocating. It’s a confusing product with many different facets and no room to make mistakes. When it comes to something as important as your health and, let’s face it, finances, you can’t afford to buy a plan that isn’t right for your specific needs. The international health insurance brokers at Medibroker have put together insights into the different aspects of health plans for expats and the important factors to consider in buying expat medical cover.

Your health

Some people think they’re ‘too healthy’ to need health insurance. So you take care of yourself, you eat well and you avoid dangerous environments? So what? Accidents happen, and they have a nasty habit of occurring when you’re not prepared. People fall ill unexpectedly, and even routine medical attention can add up if you’re overseas without comprehensive health cover.

Pre-existing conditions inevitably affect your choices when it comes to buying health insurance, and it’s often more difficult to get cover for existing health issues, so it can be helpful to have expert advice when it comes to assessing which plan will work for you.

Local or international?

A local health plan will only cover you for medical treatment in that country. It may not cover medical evacuation and is unlikely to give you the freedom to choose where you receive treatment.

An international plan can offer a solution, because it travels wherever you do. British expats in particular should think about buying international health insurance because changes to NHS rules in the UK mean they can no longer rely on receiving free healthcare when they return home straightaway. By purchasing an international plan, you are covered wherever you travel.


If you’re moving abroad for work or to start a new life in your dream destination, you should research the specific country’s rules regarding health insurance requirements for residents. Dubai in particular has rigid rules, and while expatriates’ employers should pay for their medical plan in Dubai, they are under no obligation to cover the employee’s dependents.

DHA last year announced that health insurance was to be mandatory for all people living in or moving to the city after 2015. As such, the DHA mandates that all health insurance policies sold in Dubai now need to meet minimum coverage requirements.

You should never just assume that a health insurance policy you don’t fully understand is compliant, so it’s wise to speak to an expert about getting a plan that will definitely meet the country’s requirements.

health insurance scrabble

Quality of healthcare in your host country

You should consider whether you will have access to free healthcare in your new country and whether the medical facilities, both public and private, are to your standards. If not, you may want to ensure you have medical evacuation cover or freedom to choose where you receive treatment.


Hospitals and doctors increasing their costs, plus the availability of ever-more complex and expensive medical procedures, lead to higher medical bills.

Your budget for health insurance needs to be taken into consideration, as it is going to affect the level of cover you choose. It’s easy to calculate your medical insurance costs today but it’s where they might be in five or 10 years that can be harder to predict. One thing is almost certain: as you get older, your medical premiums are likely to increase.

You can look at an excess or deductible to reduce your premiums. This is a set amount that you agree to pay before your insurance company will pay costs above this. Typically, an excess or deductible will either be per claim (effectively per condition) or per year. If you are relatively fit and healthy, then it can be tempting to take a higher excess, but you should think about how much you have to pay yourself should you need medical treatment.

Your specific needs

The level of cover you need will depend on your individual circumstances. Your age, health and location are all factors to take into consideration, and you will also have to think about whether you will need add-ons like maternity or dental cover.

Protecting your health isn’t like buying car insurance. Health insurance is a complex, expensive product, because plans strive to meet your needs. You’re a person, not a category, so a comparison site can’t fully assess your requirements.

Use a broker.

Medibroker can take the stress out of choosing a health insurance plan. They chat to you to make sure they understand your needs, then recommend a plan tailored to you. It’s a completely impartial, 100% free personal service. There’s really no need to get lost in the lingo. Save that for meeting locals in your new expat country!

This post is sponsored. 

Image by Sharon Sinclair on Creative Commons.

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