Whilst moving abroad may well be the best move you ever make, there are some negative aspects of being an expat that it’s important to face up to like, for example, expatriate health insurance.

The main downsides are the many financial barriers put in the way of expats, and the fact that there are no real support systems in place to help out.  Expats have to take full financial responsibility.

One of the biggest barriers can be affording expatriate health insurance, but in this article we are going to give you 7 tips for making the expense less.

British Expats and Health Insurance

In the UK we take the fact that we can access and utilise the NHS absolutely for granted.  Therefore for Britons moving abroad, the fact that it’s highly likely we will have to pay in some way for healthcare can be a shock.

Depending where you move to live and at what stage of your life you relocate, you may have to pay in to another national scheme, pay top up insurance, pay as you go, or even buy expat health cover before you will be able to access any medical treatment at all.

Whenever I write about moving abroad and planning and preparing for relocation, I always bring this up – because affording health insurance, or affording to pay to get treatment, very quickly adds up.

If you’re thinking of moving abroad and you want to know how you can afford expat health insurance, here’s what you need to think about.

How Does Health Insurance Work in Your New Country?

Firstly, how does it work in your chosen country?  Are you moving to a nation with a nationally funded scheme that you will need to pay in to out of your wages as you work such as Malta?

Or are you moving to a country like France where you contribute to a national system, and where most people also have top up insurance?

Are you going to a country where health insurance is compulsory – e.g., Germany?  Or are you moving to a nation where there are no real rules, and you can either pay as you go or buy insurance – e.g., Northern Cyprus?

You need to know how it works in your own particular country of choice….then you can make plans.

If you’re relocating to a country like Denmark or Austria where you pay into a national scheme, as we do in the UK via our National Insurance Contributions, then your contributions will be deducted from your wages, assuming you’re relocating to work.

This is an additional tax that you need to be sure you’re comfortable affording when thinking about how much you will be earning when you move, and how much disposable income you will need in order to have the lifestyle you aspire to.

If you’re moving to a country within the EEA with which the UK has a reciprocal agreement and you’re officially retired, you may be able to access such a nation’s healthcare system for free via a British issued S1 form.  An example is Spain where retired Britons can get access to free healthcare, in theory at least.

To apply for your S1 form you need to telephone the DWP on 0191 218 7777 or visit the NHS website for more information.

If you’re moving to a country with compulsory health insurance like Holland, it’s likely there will be a choice of schemes you can choose from.  Often, if you’re going abroad to work, your employer will be tied in to one scheme and your monthly contributions will be deducted before you receive your salary.

Elsewhere you will need to decide whether you need top up insurance, whether you can afford to pay as you go to access healthcare, or if you need an expatriate health insurance policy.

There are any number of international insurance companies offering expatriates’ policies.  What’s more, you may find that you can get a cheaper policy if you choose an insurer local to your new nation.

7 Tips for Affording Expatriate Health Insurance

Here are some tips to cutting costs on health insurance: –

1. The bigger your excess, the lower the monthly cost.  Therefore, if you think you can afford to pay something every time you need treatment, talk to each insurer you approach to see how much you could shave off your monthly/annual fee.

2. The narrower your coverage, the more affordable your insurance – i.e., if you restrict coverage to your new nation, or a state within your new nation if we’re talking about the US for example, your insurance will be cheaper.  However, if you travel outside of your insured area you will need to buy travel or top up insurance for the duration of your stay.

3. Opting to pay for prescriptions, dental and optical treatment yourself can reduce your insurance premium.

4. Pre-existing conditions can ramp up the cost of insurance, or even be ineligible for cover.  Can you afford not to have pre-existing conditions covered – this could make insurance cheaper.  However, how might this affect you – think about whether this will leave you vulnerable, and if so, what you can do to offset the risk.

5. Think about the level of cover you need.  If you can reduce the level of cover to just emergency treatment perhaps, then you will naturally reduce your premiums.  But, be realistic…what if you fall long-term ill and need care and treatment?  Will you be able to pay out of pocket?

6. Shop around.  As there are plenty of insurers out there, it will pay you to shop around every year when you get your renewal.

7. Get help – IFAs all offer insurance as well, and the biggest and best brokerages know the whole market, and place large amounts of business across the market, so may be able to get you better rates that you can get if you go it alone.

A final word about expat health insurance – it’s a very tedious subject, but just because it’s boring to even think about, don’t risk going uninsured – the cost could literally be too high.

According to ABTA: “Almost half of Brits (47%) mistakenly believe it would cost £5,000 or less to treat a broken leg in the USA despite the actual figure being more than eight times than that, costing approximately £40,000.”

Do your country-specific research, and then shop around and haggle.