In view of the wide variety of international private medical insurance plans available from many different providers worldwide, anyone interested in such insurance is hard pressed to make a well-informed choice that is appropriate to their situation and requirements. Indeed, of the large number of private medical plans available, only relatively few are worth considering at all.

In international health insurance too, you have to read the small print and in the end you get what you pay for. Such insurance plans do not normally provide cover for pre-existing conditions (and if they do, then only after a two to five-year waiting period), neither are items such as cosmetic treatment or alternative medicines included. But otherwise, the extent of coverage and the services offered depend mainly on your budget. Interestingly, however, this principle is sometimes compromised by a few expensive plans that offer surprisingly little in terms of coverage.

Why you need international private health insurance

Quite generally, insurance makes sense for everyone. Even if you have substantial funds to pay all your medical bills yourself, it is nevertheless sensible to take out appropriate health coverage as both short and long-term benefits practically always outweigh the costs. So the principal question to ask is whether to opt for local or international health insurance. The answer depends greatly on your individual circumstances.

Many countries run a compulsory health insurance scheme or a public healthcare system which provides at least basic cover. Domestic insurers also offer different types of private medical insurance, inclusive of coverage for temporary stays abroad. In most countries, however, the coverage offered by local health insurers is limited to residents of that country. If someone moves abroad, their policy will normally not be continued. They are left with a choice of finding another local insurer in their new country of residence or turning to an international health insurer. Although an international insurance policy which provides coverage independently of place of residence or duration of stay in any particular country is naturally more expensive, it is often well worth the extra cost.

The cost of coverage

If you compare costs, you may find that for a particular age band, prices under different insurance plans vary by as much as 300% or even more, because the coverage of the different insurance plans vary greatly. Indeed, the costs of international health plans are based on a number of factors, and principally the age of the insured person. All private insurance plans consequently charge tiered premiums with different age bands. Generally, whichever insurance plan you consider, it is advisable to take out the insurance as early as possible in life as this can keep the overall premium costs down later on.

How to choose the right insurance plan

Policies differ greatly not only in their coverage of optional extras such as homeopathy, for example, but also of major eventualities such as transplants and chronic illnesses. It is therefore relatively difficult to effectively compare the wide range of products available internationally. All too often, key insurance conditions are hidden in the small print of the policies. Also, people often look at what they currently pay but neglect to consider what will happen when they get older. The premiums of some health plans become extremely expensive for higher age bands. Particularly if you need long-term coverage, you should not only look at the product but also at the company itself. There are many attractive policies on the market, some of them at apparently very affordable prices. However, it is advisable to check out the company’s claims handling procedure, and it also makes sense to ask what the situation will be like in ten years’ time and whether the health plan – or even the company – is still likely to be around. The last thing you want to happen is to be in a faraway place when an emergency occurs and you need medical assistance urgently but have insufficient coverage. This is why, when it comes to international health insurance, most people choose more comprehensive and established plans and are generally quite prepared to pay more for good coverage that is appropriate to their needs, as the price they pay for this insurance buys them true peace of mind for themselves and their family.