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Health Insurance for British expats

Depending on your location, choosing the right expat health insurance policy could literally be the difference between life and death.

Written on 22 September 2022

The list of reasons for British citizens to choose relocation to new countries is forever growing.

From lifestyle changes, better work and career opportunities, to just craving an experience within a different culture, the list is vast.

But to be able to enjoy any of these, as well as keep well-established peace of mind, it is always crucial to make arrangements so that you always have access to good health care when outside of your home country. After all, not every country is able to benefit from a publicly funded, free at the point of use, National Health Service.

Not only for the sake of family and loved ones, but while living in a world where the Covid-19 pandemic continues to effect countries far and wide, now is not the time to take any risks.

What kind of health insurance do I need as an expat?

You may be a little confused if you have begun researching what you may need in terms of medical cover.

And if you have heard both the terms ‘international health care’ and ‘travel medical insurance’ you may be even more so.

To put it simply, there is one main difference between these two types of medical cover, and that is your purpose of travelling to that country.

International health insurance is typically designed for those relocating from their home country to another for a sustained period of time (usually over a minimum 12-month period).

Travel medical insurance however only provides cover for emergency treatment while you are visiting another country for a short period of time.

How do I choose the most suitable Health Insurance?

The first step in choosing what kind of insurance you will need is understanding where exactly you will need to be covered.

This means working out where your destination is, or if applicable, which multiple locations you will be visiting.

This helps streamline the process due to the fact that different providers will not always cover the same places.

Some providers will supply lists to choose from, but most tend to work from either a package or a ‘zone’ system (e.g. Zone A = worldwide cover/ Zone B = most countries excluding Country A, B or C), which ultimately helps you find the right level of cover tailored to your needs.

The next important thing to consider is the type of plan you want to choose.

Each plan will define exactly what healthcare access or limitations you will have, so it is crucial to choose what is right for you.

Standard plans cover roughly the same criteria throughout most providers, but some offer additional benefits as add-ons to your plan, allowing more personalization. This is covered in more detail further down this article.

Lastly, most of these decisions will always come down to a financial standpoint.

Questions like ‘how much excess do I want to pay and how does that effect my premium options?’.

It goes without saying that having no excess to pay out of pocket sounds good in theory, particularly in the event of a medical decision which is usually unplanned.

But more expensive premiums can result in a massive overall increase in total amount paid toward your cover.

Every expat will have different needs and financial stabilities, and this decision is more about finding a balance between both how much excess your plan has and what kind of premiums come with it.

The type of plan you choose must be viewed as a whole. Take into consideration all of the questions raised above to decipher exactly where the answers leave you in choosing your insurance.

Take into account what you think you will need covered, now and in the future, what you are comfortable paying out of pocket should you need to and also whether the premiums you are considering are sustainable going forward in the long term.

As well as everything raised above, some of the following is also crucial to consider when choosing your expat health insurance:

  • Emergency medical evacuation, at no additional cost
  • Portability ensuring you can take insurance with you across borders if you have to relocate
  • Inclusion of children (some policies may include a number of children free of charge)
  • If Wellness benefit can be applied to an annual physical, mammogram, or colonoscopy

What does health insurance usually cover for expats?

All companies offer different covers with ranging terms and conditions; however, most standard expat health insurance policies will cover most of the following costs:

  • Essential hospital stays and treatments
  • Surgeon and consultation fees
  • In-patient, outpatient and cancer treatments
  • Sports coverage
  • Pre-existing conditions treatment
  • Wellness care, Preventive care and Vaccinations

Providers will also commonly offer a range of ‘add-ons’ allowing you to personalise your cover in more detail, based on both what you know now, and what you are planning on in the future. Some of these can include:

  • Maternity, pregnancy and new-born care
  • Mental Health treatment
  • Dental and Optical treatments
  • Protecting your No Claims Discount (NCD)

Of course, these are a base example, and all policies and providers will vary.

How much will my health insurance plan cost?

The end cost of your health insurance will always vary depending on both the plan you choose best suited to you, and the insurance provider that the plan is through.

Companies will often offer varying tier-level packages (‘Gold’ or ‘Platinum’ packages) that increase in price, which hold higher levels of cover and perks.

You must always be wary of cheap policies and check beforehand what exactly it is you are covered for.

The main factors that will impact how much your tailored health insurance plan will cost are the following:

  • Your age
  • The geographic region you want the coverage in
  • Your chosen payment frequency (monthly/ quarterly/ annually)
  • Chosen medical maximum
  • The deductible of the plan
  • Any add-on coverage

Get a quote from an Expert for Expat partner

We work with The Expatriate Group who provide a range of insurance services for British expats, including health insurance. You can request a health insurance quote from The Expatriate Group using this link, although you will not be able to get cover for sports or pre-existing conditions through this policy:

Who can use the UK’s National Health Service?

The NHS is a resident-based health care system, so as a British expat living overseas permanently, you will not have access to free NHS medical care.

However, all emergency treatment through the NHS is free, regardless of your residence status. This means that any emergencies that occur while visiting the UK are free with the NHS, as long as you have not travelled to the UK to seek said treatment.

Regardless of previously being a UK resident, you must ensure that you hold the appropriate travel insurance whenever you are visiting the UK, just as you would when visiting any other country.

If you do not have this cover, any treatment that you may need while in the UK will be charged at 150% of the national NHS rate.