If you’re an expat living away from your home country, international health insurance is soooo important. But there are countless plans on the market – finding the right one can be a challenge! Each insurance company designs their plans differently, and direct comparisons between, say, premiums, underwriting and benefits can be tricky. We asked the team at APRIL International to spell out some of the differences you might encounter, to help you make an informed choice.
#1 Plan structure
One of the biggest differences you’ll notice between plans from different companies is how they are arranged, which is usually either module-based or package-based. Both have their pros and cons.
Package-based international health plans
Package-based plans will usually have a series of plan levels with increasing levels of coverage and benefits. For example, if there is a series of three plans then Plan C may offer inpatient and outpatient cover, Plan B may offer inpatient, outpatient and dental cover with increased coverage limits, while Plan A may offer all of the previously mentioned benefits, plus maternity and a substantial increase in coverage. This can make choosing a plan easier as your options are more straightforward. However the lack of flexibility to choose coverage could lead to you paying for what you may not need.
An example of how package-based plans may differ:
Module-based international health plans
Module-based plans are a little more flexible in terms of coverage options. Such plans usually offer you a core plan that covers surgeries, hospital visits and associated expenses. There’ll be an option to add on coverage modules such as outpatient, dental and maternity benefits. Similar to package-based plans, these plans will typically give you a series of coverage options, which increase benefits and limits. However, these can be selected on a per module basis instead of a single plan as a whole. For example, you can decide you need a lower level of inpatient cover, but a high level of outpatient and dental protection for your teens.
An example of how module-based plans may differ:
#2 Budget options and what they apply to
Another thing that differs between plans is the availability of premium saving options like deductibles and co-insurance (also known as co-payments). A deductible makes you responsible for a set amount of medical expenses per year before the insurance company will cover the rest, while a co-insurance means you pay a fixed percentage of your medical expenses. In both cases, this will allow you to reduce your overall premium.
Two things to ask:
- What premium savings options does the plan offer? A deductible, co-insurance, choice between the two or the option to have both?
- What parts of the plan do the options apply to? Every benefit, some or just one?
#3 Areas of cover
Most international health plans offers either worldwide coverage or worldwide coverage excluding the USA. However, some insurers also offer more regional areas of cover such ASEAN-wide coverage. Most plans (including package-based ones) will let you choose your area of cover, but occasionally, the area of cover will be tied to the level of your package, with the higher tiers coming with worldwide coverage. This can lead to an inflated premium if you want more cover or expanded benefits but do not necessarily need USA coverage.
#4 Applications and underwriting
In general, this will either be full medical underwriting (FMU) or moratorium-based underwriting. Some companies like APRIL International offer the option of either one. With an FMU application process, you’ll need to fill out a medical questionnaire and the insurance company will review your medical history. They will make the decision whether there’s any pre-existing conditions that require either a premium loading or an exclusion.
Generally, a moratorium underwriting application process will not cover pre-existing conditions, unless stated otherwise. If you haven’t had any symptoms or required treatment for your pre-existing conditions after a certain amount of time on the plan (usually two years), moratorium plans will often be able to start covering those conditions.
#5 Coverage limits
It’s crucial to understand whether your plan treats various benefits like outpatient, maternity and dental cover as being part of the overall limit of your plan, or if each benefit comes with its own sub-limit. In some cases, outpatient benefits may be covered under the overall limit, while maternity and dental benefits have their own sub-limits. For any international health plan you’re interested in, be sure to check the limits of any particular benefits that are important for your healthcare needs.