As easy and as wonderful as the travel options are from Singapore, you still need to expect the unexpected on a holiday or business trip. We’ve heard more than our fair share of stories of expat families coming home from the likes of Bali, Thailand and Sri Lanka with one of more of the group suffering from an ailment or injury. Needless to say, health insurance coverage when you travel (and, trust us, living in Singapore, you will travel!) is of paramount importance. We asked the team at APRIL International for advice.
#1 Find out the nature of your existing cover
As an expat living in Singapore, you may have a personal health insurance policy or be covered through your employer. Your plan may be an international health insurance plan that covers you for any medical expenses while travelling, or you might have a local health insurance plan that only covers you within Singapore. If yours is the latter, it may be wise to purchase a travel insurance plan to cover any medical emergencies while you’re travelling, whether it’s a single-trip or multi-trip policy.
#2 Make sure you have the right protection
The first thing you should consider is whether the plan you’re looking at provides coverage in the places you’re travelling to. International health insurance policies usually offer coverage worldwide or worldwide excluding the USA (sometimes there may be a regional ASEAN option). Travel policies sometimes have three or more regions of coverage, and travel insurance companies will have different countries broken out into different regions, so make sure you choose the region that includes all the countries you’re travelling to. This is incredibly important because, while many international medical plans will provide some coverage for medical emergencies outside the area of cover, travel policies will typically not cover anything that happens outside of the selected regions of coverage.
#3 Understand the claims process
Depending on what kind of insurance you might be covered by, the process for taking care of the costs of medical treatment may vary. In most cases, both travel and local Singapore health insurance policies that cover overseas medical costs will require you to first pay for the medical treatment and then claim the expenses back from the insurer. While many international medical insurance plans offer direct billing in most hospitals around the world, even in the case of medical emergencies, it’s best to familiarise yourself with what you have to do in an emergency, or how to get reimbursed.
#4 Know the pre-existing conditions
If you’re a frequent traveller, you’ve probably gained enough experience to have any necessary medication sorted out before you travel and you’ll mostly just need health insurance coverage for emergencies. However, for anyone with ongoing health conditions such as asthma, recent illnesses or injuries, it’s important to remember that these will be generally treated as pre-existing conditions. While it can be possible to get pre-existing conditions covered under your local or international health plan in Singapore (such as through employers’ group health insurance), most travel insurance plans will exclude coverage of any medical emergency caused by a pre-existing illness or injury. So, if you do have any health issues that might cause a medical emergency, make sure you’re clear about what will or will not be covered by insurance while travelling.
#5 Pay attention to exclusions
Another thing to pay attention to is any special instances where your health insurance will not cover you. For instance, both international health insurance and travel insurance typically exclude coverage of injuries related to professional sports. There may also be additional conditions or exclusions for certain sports and activities such as rock climbing, scuba diving or bungee jumping. So, if you’re a big fan of adventurous vacation activities, check the policy documents carefully to know whether you’ll be covered in case there’s an accident. Travel policies also do not typically cover anything related to being under the influence of alcohol. If you’re at a business dinner or having a night out with friends and you’ve had a few drinks, be aware that if there’s an accident, you may not be able to claim for any medical treatment.
So how do I decide?
Ultimately, making the right choice about your health insurance coverage as a frequent traveller depends largely on your circumstances and plans. If you’re relatively healthy and not planning on doing any potentially risky activities, a travel insurance policy might be sufficient. However, if you feel like you might need more comprehensive protection or want direct billing, then an international health insurance policy may be worth considering. Another additional benefit for international plans is that they are globally portable and can be taken with you if you relocate.
Learn more about APRIL International’s MyHEALTH policy that offers international coverage and flexible benefits that can be tailored to your needs by clicking here.
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