GoBear speaks to an insurance expert on his recent relocation experience. 

I look at countless insurance policy documents for my job. I have reviewed claims and made decisions on difficult cases. When the family’s health insurance came up when we were planning our relocation, I thought I would leave this “easiest thing” to the last.

I was wrong.

This is the first time I have relocated to a new country and I must say, this is not the easiest feat to accomplish. Nothing can be a better eye opener especially if the new place is very different from where you're originally from.

This move got me observing things from an outsider's perspective. I began to see things from “outside in” which got me thinking for the first time what it feels like to have no support system.

How are we going to get to the hospital if either one of us happened to get really sick? Who is going to be by my side if I get attacked on the street?

This responsibility got me re-thinking the family’s insurance plans. By funnelling the decision down to 10 key questions, I got it figured out. 

I hope that this checklist of questions will help others work through their health insurance with more ease. 

International Health Insurance: 10 important questions to ask

1. Should I buy an individual/family or group plan?

Most companies offer their expat employees a group plan that involves a simple health declaration. Such a group plan is not portable. This means you cannot bring it along when you switch jobs to another company.
It is important to find out if you are able to bring your health insurance with you, should you decide to relocate to another country.  

An individual plan is portable but requires individual health underwriting which may entail completing a health questionaire.
As most foreign countries mandate a medical check prior to approving a work visa and most companies requires checkup for employment, insurers are often open to accepting these as adequate documentation for the application of an individual health plan.

Some insurers offer a group discount for individuals who are not related. Do check with your insurance advisor if this offer is available to you.

2. If you opt for a family plan, who in the family will be covered?

Some family plans cover only the married spouse and/or children. Some also include extended family members like parents.
If you are yet to be married, do check if your insurer covers your partner. 

3. What benefits will the plan provide?

Insurance plans come with 3 major benefits: Outpatient (eg. visits to the clinic to see a doctor), Inpatient (Hospitalization and Surgery), and Maternity.

4. What locations will be covered for treatment?

There are basically 4 types of plans: Singapore, Regional (please check with your insurer for the countries included in your coverage), Worldwide excluding USA, Worldwide including USA.

5. Will your plan cover you when you are required to travel to different countries for work? 

As expats, we live our lives out of a suitcase.
It is important to ensure that the required coverage is available to us during our tour of duty in other countries.

Most plans offer cover but some pay only for emergency and accidents.
To find out if your preferred insurance plan covers this, please refer to the "More details" tab > "Area of Cover" on GoBear's Health Insurance quotes page.

Some insurance plans will pay only for the necessary (or up to reasonable costs) of medical treatment for the insured in the country of residence.

You can find out easily what your plan covers you beyond the indicated area of cover by comparing Health Insurance on GoBear.
After selecting "Find Plans", you will be greeted with all the Health Insurance plans that best meet your needs.
On identifying your preferred Health Insurance plan, click on "More details" > "Additional details" > "Emergency cover outside area of cover" for a comprehensive summary of the plan's features. 

6. Will your plan cover your medical treatment should you choose to do it in your home country?

Do check your policy documents if you are covered for medical treatment in your home country and/or the country you prefer to seek medical treatment in.

7. What does pre-existing conditions and exclusion mean?

A pre-existing condition refers to any symptom, injury, illness or medical condition which exists at the time of application for insurance.
There are plans that will not pay for the treatment of conditions you have, prior to buying the plan. This includes conditions which you are currently taking medication for.
Let's say if you are taking medication for say high cholestrol, this is a pre-existing.

8. Does a claim affect your premium?

It could. Often premium is calculated based on age and the country you live in and sometimes, gender.
You will be able to determine if your insurance plan carries this feature by referring to your choice of Health Insurance plan on GoBear. Look for "More details" > "Additional details" > "Claims affect premium".
If there is a tick against this feature, for example in this particular plan, then yes, a claim will affect your premium.  

9. Will your plan provide medical repatriation?

It's worthwhile to note that medical repatriation and evacuation are not the same.

Medical evacuation takes place when immediate medical treatment is not available at the location of injury. This involves the transportation of the insured to nearest medical facility or in most cases to medical facility in country of residence (vs home country or country of origin).

Medical repatriation pays for the insured to be transported back to the country of residence for treatment. Some insurance offer you the option to be repatriated to your home county. 

10. Does the plan have 24 hour hotline for concierge services for local and foreign countries?

This is handy when you find yourself having to be in a few countries you are not familiar with, during a short period of time.