For most Expatriates, purchasing a quality private global medical insurance policy for you and your family can be quite intimidating and confusing…while others may view it as a non-event, because they see it as an unnecessary added expense. Anyway you look at it, I’m going to tell you the reasons why you need some coverage, (catastrophic cover at least) and the 7 Lifesaving Secrets you must know before purchasing a private global policy.
1) Always do your due diligence on the financial strength & claims paying ability ratings of the companies you are reviewing. Never choose a company with a rating less than A (excellent) by Standard & Poor’s or Moody’s.
2) Since 1992, I have found that the most important secret that have saved several of my client’s lives has been the Broker/Client relationship. Even with today’s automated online quotes and applications, which unfortunately the client rarely knows who their representative really is, I ALWAYS call or e-mail my clients personally to introduce myself and let them know I’m here to make their life easier during any event, (coordinating air evacuation, assist in answering any questions, following up on submitted claims reimbursements and anything they need!) Example: I have a client that lived in the oil fields of Venezuela, not near a quality hospital, but nearer to local clinics. My client John had a massive heart attack and needed immediate assistance to not only save his life, but if he lived, contain a quality of life he would have to endure for the next 25 years or so. Anyway, his wife called my personal phone and was panicking, she called the local ambulance to get him to a local cardiologist, but he could do little other than telling her to get him to the USA as soon as possible for a lifesaving bypass surgery. I called the insurance company and organized the air evacuation roundevue, within 24 hours the jet was on the ground, medics were able to stabilize John and fly him to a well qualified hospital in Houston that performed a quadruple bypass. Today, 26 months later, John is in the best shape of his life, he plays 18 holes of golf a week and he just told me he’s going dove hunting this season. Oh, the medical bills exceeded $ 300,000 USD and John paid his deductible of $ 5,000 USD and the insurance company paid the rest! The point is, YOU MUST have a broker that is willing to get into the mix when needed, your chances of surviving depend on it!
3) Choose a plan that allows you Freedom to pick a hospital or doctor globally. Many plans hinder your choice and only pay claims when attending the insurance company’s network of hospitals or doctors within a certain region. If I have a client that wants to go to John Hopkins in the USA or the Assistance Publique Hopitaux de Paris in France…then they should have that right. Some plans do offer extensive networks of hospitals when inside the USA & Europe and if you decide to go outside that network you may pay a small addition toward co-insurance, but the point is you have that option and are not tied into one choice.
4) Purchasing a policy that includes “Air Evacuation”, as the story indicates above, is a MUST have option for expatriates living or traveling from their initial country of citizenship!
5) A client in today’s world MUST be proactive in understanding the benefits & exclusions of their Private Global Medical policy. As an insured, you must picture yourself as a partner with the Insurance company, not submitting fraudulent claims, informing them in advance when a future surgery or procedure must be performed. Understanding the lifetime benefits and maximums for other benefits…or taking advantage of the $ 150 USD to $ 500 USD annual physical check-up benefit, which most insurance company’s reimburse from the 1st dollar… is really your obligation. If you are willing to take a few minutes and review the benefits, you will know how to best utilize these programs. You can’t walk into a hospital or specialists office and make an appointment for a knee replacement surgery without informing your insurance company. The malpractice I’ve witnessed in in different parts of the world over the past 16 years has sometimes been border line criminal. Once a client had a slight tear in the ACL and the doctor didn’t even mention physical therapy but wanted to perform reconstructive surgery immediately or the client that had lumbar herniated disc and no mention of spinal manipulation or other exercise therapy, but a fusing procedure that could have left this client really messed up and uncomfortable for life, not to mention the $ 20,000 he wanted to get out of the insurance company. Pre-Certification is the process of informing the insurance company beforehand that a surgery has been requested. Note, if you are in an accident the insurance company does not need to OK it if is live threatening, but for surgeries you know in advance, it’s wise to give the insurance company a heads up or you will face heavy penalties when paying or getting reimbursed for the claim. You don’t have to be a lawyer to understand the policy, ask you agent to explain it in general terms and the do’s and don’ts in the policy details.
6) Completing the application correctly. You don’t want to find out 1 year after the activation of the policy that you go to a doctor for some type of immune deficiency disorder and once the insurance company realized that 3 years earlier, (by requesting past medical history), that you went to a doctor for some type of allergy issue, which you failed to mention on the application, then they deny your claim. Talk with your agent and tell him any medications you take or any pre-excising medical conditions. This is the reason my company represents several quality insurance carriers…I have a clue after understanding my clients issues, which company offers the best chance to insure that individual including whatever condition they may have.
7) Policies that includes USA coverage. As I told you above, Latin America and the Caribbean are great places to live…but I don’t want to be treated for serious ailments or die there. Make sure your policy includes coverage everywhere inside the USA, however; if you are a citizen and resident on the other side of the pond and never travel for business or pleasure to the USA then, USA coverage may only be an unnecessary added expense! NOTE: If you happen to travel to the USA for business or pleasure, you can always purchase a temporary travel medical policy that includes coverage inside the USA for the time you are away from your resident country.
To conclude, there are many policy options for expatriates, from local plans that promise global benefits to newly created, low financed companies offering policies that I would not want my dog to have.