Expat Health Insurance: All You Need to Know

Millions of people choose to move overseas every year. Whether you are relocating for employment reasons, as a lifestyle choice, or to retire, relocating is an exciting time yet also one of upheaval and potential stress.

One of the biggest factors to consider when moving abroad is how you will access healthcare in your new location, especially if you are moving with a young family, or are a retiree dealing with an existing condition.

AD MediLink experts have gathered all you need to know about health insurance when you are an expat.


Why You Should Get Health Insurance as an Expat

Healthcare in Hong Kong is world-class, with both public and private sectors equipped with the latest medical technology operated by highly trained medical staff, who speak good English. However, Hong Kong also has some of the world’s highest healthcare costs, in fact the 2nd highest in the world after the US – so expats should ensure that they have adequate insurance coverage.

For example, in Hong Kong, costs for a cancer treatment vary between HK$1 million and HK$2 million. According to Healthy Matters, research in Hong Kong shows that costs for childbirth (standard room level) varies between HK$70,000 and $100,000 for an uncomplicated vaginal childbirth, and can easily reach or exceed HK$250,000 for an emergency C-section.

That is why finding a health insurance plan should be at the top of your list of priorities when planning your move to Hong Kong. Just because you are moving for an exciting new adventure, doesn’t mean you should put your health on hold : you need to have peace of mind.

Keep in mind that, even if your employer covers you with health benefits, these usually aren’t sufficient. It is therefore very common for expats to get individual health insurance (called top-up plans), in addition to the one provided by their employer.


What if You Quit or Loose Your Job?

Too few expats realise that leaving or losing their job while living abroad has serious consequences on their health coverage. Indeed, in the overwhelming majority of cases, health insurance plans from your employer are not portable. When they are, there are typically strict conditions.

In Hong Kong for instance, there has sadly been several recent cases of expats facing private healthcare bills that they could not afford. The additional stress and logistics to arrange for urgent funding and treatment are not, by experience, worth the risk when there are no other options than being treated in Hong Kong.

Read more on what happens in case you leave or loose your job or decide to stay abroad.


Travel Medical Insurance vs. International Health Insurance

It is important to know the difference between international health insurance and travel insurance. Although they are both made for people spending time away from their home country, the purpose of each of these products is different.

Take 2 minutes to grasp the difference, otherwise your coverage overseas might not be appropriate and you could face unexpected medical expenses.


Need international health insurance?


1. What is Travel Insurance?

Travel insurance provides cover for emergency treatment while you are in another country for a shorter space of time. In terms of medical coverage, travel insurance is intended to provide short-term emergency medical treatment, within your specified area or period of cover, in order to get you well enough to return home.

Therefore, it rarely covers long term medical treatment. If further treatment is required, you will indeed usually be expected to return to your home country. Cover ceases once you are back in your country of residence.


2. What is International Health Insurance?

International health insurance provides a comprehensive level of health care to those relocating from their home country for a significant period of time. 

International health insurance is designed for those living or working overseas for a prolonged period of time. It covers treatment for both emergency and routine healthcare, and provides expats with flexibility in terms of choice of doctor and treatment facility, with the ability to receive treatment anywhere within their region of cover.

When you have international health insurance and are able to access private healthcare facilities when you need to, you will live in your new location with peace of mind. You will be able to access these facilities quicker than you likely would via the public system and get back to living your exciting life in your new location.

Well-known providers of international health insurance (also known as IPMI) include Aetna, ALC, April, AXA Global healthcare, Bupa, and Cigna. AD MediLink is expert in international & expat health insurance and works with 20+ reputable providers. Contact our team for any questions and to compare all your options with unbiased advice.


What to Look for When Choosing Expat Health Insurance?

#1: An Appropriate Coverage 

In Hong Kong, there are generally 3 tiers of international health insurance plans that correspond to different needs and budgets: 

– The lower tier plans generally provide coverage for inpatient treatments and major illness, without many add-ons.

– The average middle tier plans usually include coverage for outpatient treatments, as well as some maternity benefits and private hospital rooms. Compared to the lower tier plans, it also has higher maximum benefits for the inpatient care.

– The upper tier plans raise maximum benefits even higher and provide the most comprehensive coverage of these 3 options, with, for example, annual health checks, routine maternity and elective c-sections.

If you are covered by a health insurance provided by your employer, make sure that its coverage is appropriate to your needs. Indeed, these types of plans usually aren’t sufficient and top up plans are here to help you avoid difficult consequences in case of big medical bills.


#2: A Good Customer Service

Check how you will be able to communicate with your insurance provider: does it have  24/7 availability? Does it offer a live chat over a phone call? Does it offer translation services? 

These might seem like details but when you need to reach your insurer, it needs to be here for you, emergency or not. 


#3: Billing

Does your insurance provider direct bill? Direct bill means that, where possible,  the insurer will arrange to pay the hospital, clinic or doctor you wish to see directly. 

It is therefore an excellent option for those living abroad when you are met with the unfortunate situation of needing medical treatment. 


#4: Claims Processing

 Some insurance providers have a strict policy of getting you paid quickly while others may take up to a few months. 

Taking a closer look at claims processing could make you gain some precious time and avoid long and stressful reimbursement processes.


#5: Ask an Expert for Help

 A health insurance broker’s role is to help you find the best plan, for you and/or your family, within your needs & budget. 

A specialist health insurance advisor will:

– Help you review and compare all relevant health insurance plans, including top-up plans.

– Clearly explain how the market works, what the right options are for you and expertly answer all your questions.

– Show you how co-pays and deductibles affect your overall health care costs.

– Navigate complex situations if you encounter unforeseen costs like balance billing.

– Advocate for your best interests whenever you need.

Here is what you should ask your insurance broker.


Looking for health insurance? Need unbiased advice? contact an expert at AD MediLink at hello@admedilink.hk or +852 2606 2668 to receive a free quote. An advisor uniquely trained on all your options will give you independent advice on medical coverage, and answer all your questions.

This article was independently written and is not sponsored. It is informative only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.