Think you can do without health insurance when living overseas? This might change your mind
Written by Simon Boyle on April 28, 2016.
Periodically, stories appear in the local and international press about expats across Asia who are in urgent need of medical care but can’t afford to foot the bill. A recent story of the struggles of a British expatriate is an example. Following surgery to remove a toe in a hospital in Koh Samui, metal left in the wound caused a serious infection which threatened John’s life. Without insurance, John soon ran out of money for treatment and his son, Joe, is currently fundraising on gofundme.com to pay his medical expenses and hopefully get him well enough to fly back to the UK for further treatment.
It’s not just a desperately sad story but also a salutary tale on why it’s not a good idea to skip on health insurance, however healthy you believe yourself to be. John no doubt thought himself in robust health when he moved overseas. Maybe he even had some savings which he thought would easily cover any medical expenses he might incur. He probably never imagined himself having to have a toe removed, let alone facing the life-threatening nightmare which followed his surgery. It’s a scenario which no-one could have anticipated. Unfortunately there are a million other unpredictable scenarios which could happen to any of us at any time.
The fact that you don’t have a crystal ball to tell you what is going to happen in the future is reason enough to take out health insurance. Quite simply, if you don’t have it you are taking an unnecessary risk. Generally expatriates in any country are not eligible for state-provided healthcare and without insurance every visit to the doctor, hospital stay or treatment will have to come out of your own pocket. That might be fine if you only visit the doctor once or twice a year but what happens if you get cancer, have a brain haemorrhage or are involved in a car accident?
Secondly, health insurance will give you access to the best facilities and care on offer both where you live and, in most cases, wherever you travel. I don’t know what went wrong in this case and would not speculate on the standard of hospital care received by this particular individual, however I do know that if I were to get ill, I would want access to the best hospitals in the country which rival those anywhere in the world. In addition, when it comes to my health I’d rather have the peace of mind of access to English-speaking staff to avoid any communication issues regarding my treatment. Generally that will mean paying top dollar. Unless you’re extremely wealthy the cost of a hospital bed alone can quickly mount up not to mention every consultant visit, x ray, scan, bandage, tablet and meal. All costs which could be avoided by having suitable insurance.
Don’t just take my word for it. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office have produced a booklet for all those contemplating a life abroad called ‘Going to Live Abroad’: Their advice:
‘It is highly recommended to get health insurance to cover private medical and dental treatment, and medical repatriation to the UK.’
The good news is that a medical insurance policy needn’t break the bank. Here at Infinity we work with all the major insurance providers and are tied to none so we can research suitable policies for you and your family and help you select the best one taking into account both price and the level of cover appropriate for your needs. We can also talk you through all the issues you need to consider when taking out a policy such as the pros and cons of a local policy versus an international one and whether you would benefit from add-ons such as travel insurance.
If you’d like the peace of mind that whatever happens to you or your family health-wise you won’t have to dip into your savings, or even resort to crowdfunding, to meet the bills then why not call me for a chat?