Expat health insurance is a common thing that people who are looking to move to Belize do research on. It can be a confusing topic and easy to fall down a deep internet rabbit hole looking for answers. I decided to reach out to a well-qualified source to help take the guesswork out of Expat health insurance options. She also covers the two main types of policies and what to look for when you are comparing companies or in the fine print. Deanna Marie works at Global International Insurance Advisor for Pacific Prime Insurance Brokers and provided a thorough impartial view on expat insurance.
Belize Expat Health Insurance Advice
When looking for travel health insurance advice, sometimes the professionals can really help you navigate the complicated landscape. While reading the terms and conditions of the aspects of your travel policy may be the least fun part of your journey, it is a must in the exciting world of Expats. Learning which airlines have strict baggage policies is just as important as knowing about the type of travel insurance you need.
Do I even need insurance?
For some expats, insurance isn’t a focal point on their journey as they may have had insurance from a job or nationalized healthcare.
Knowing how long you will be away, where you are traveling and if your current coverage will provide protection are the first steps to being well insured. Most regions have specific regional coverage options, and there are also larger companies that offer more broad options.
A Google search for travel insurance will display some of the top-ranking insurance providers. Depending on your ISP, you may face ads from BUPA, Allianz, insuremytrip or others. But what makes these plans so different from each other?
Costs of Expat Medical Insurance
For a contract that can facilitate traveling after an illness, or requires the journey to end prematurely, understanding the in’s and outs of the contract is critical. Primarily, expats focus on the price of insurance and assume that insurance companies will hold up their end of the contract. What constitutes the prices that they are reflecting?
The factors for the cost of expat insurance are:
- Duration of coverage.
- Benefit limits.
- Area of coverage.
- Servicing quality of the Insurance Company.
For example, if you are a 25-year-old looking for travel health coverage in Belize, then your prices would be dramatically less than a 65-year-old looking for 6 months with the same expat insurance.
Reducing the Cost of the Insurance
Some plans also offer deductibles to reduce the cost of the coverage. This can also be called excess. The deductible (or excess) is the amount that the insured will pay towards treatment. Typically the deductible is met over the time of the insurance coverage and not per treatment. If you choose a deductible of $1000, then at the time of using the insurance, your contribution to the care costs would be $1000 and the remaining costs would be covered by the insurance company.
Primary vs. Secondary Travel Health Insurance
Another critical focal point when determining which travel plan would be best for you is not related to the benefits of the plan, but how it is classified. To be more clear, not every travel insurance is suited for all scenarios as an expat or nomad and this directly impacts the cost of the insurance.
In the “fine print” of the travel insurance plan, the insurance company will say whether the plan is qualified as a primary or secondary travel medical insurance.
- A Primary Insurance Plan is a stand-alone travel medical insurance. It does not require you to have insurance in your home country.
- A Secondary Insurance Plan is a travel medical insurance that can be purchased in addition to your insurance in your home country.
What is the best way to determine if travel insurance is primary or secondary? CTRL+F on the policy wording and search for “secondary”- every insurance company will place it somewhere in the document by law. It will likely not be written on the benefits page or the purchase page of the website. If you are not sure, call the information line of the insurance company and ask.
Scenarios for Primary and Secondary Insurance
For example, if you are an EU citizen and travel from Canada to Belize, it can be supposed that your primary insurance is your nationalized health care. Therefore, you are eligible for secondary travel insurance.
If you are from the US and purchase secondary insurance only if you make a large claim it is presupposed that you have insurance in the US and would be eligible to return to the US for treatment. This means that that insurance company is not required to make a payment towards your care in a foreign country. If you do not have primary insurance in your home country and purchase secondary travel insurance, it is possible and likely that your claim could be denied.
When should you Buy Long-Term Renewable Coverage?
If you are planning to remain outside of your home country for longer than one year, or do not have insurance in your home country while you are traveling, then primary insurance is the best travel insurance for you. Also, there are private international long-term expat plans that provide the best protection for you when your plans take you past a year.
Long-term renewable plans include benefits that can’t be purchased in travel medical plans. For example:
- Dental and vision.
- Preventative health exams, such as colonoscopies and mammograms.
- Coverage in your Home Country.
- Coverage for Pre-existing Conditions.
Should I choose an international plan with a high deductible or a local plan that offers full coverage?
Normally, choosing a plan from an experienced, financially secure international plan is a better long-term solution for most expats. The quality of the service is better, the guarantee of payments get to the hospital faster, claims are paid, and annual increases are less. Additionally, you know that your claims aren’t going to influence your increases the following year. For most plans, your coverage is active from day 1 and there are no waiting periods. Inpatient claims are always paid from the insurance company to the treating hospital directly.
Choosing a local plan might save you a little money in the short term, but the solvency of the insurance company should always be further scrutinized. Most local plans aren’t set up for high claim years and might go bankrupt before you need the policy to payout. Additionally, they have long waiting periods for pre-existing conditions coverage or even coverage of high-cost procedures in the first 2 years. They also have a restricted number of hospitals they may allow you to seek care. Make sure that your plan fully covers all costs of being hospitalized and doesn’t use a small per diem to cover costs while receiving inpatient treatment.
Insurance Frequently used terms:
– Inpatient: treatment that is received while in the hospital for overnight care
– Day patient: treatment that occurs in a hospital but you are released the same day
– Outpatient: treatment that is received in a doctors office
– Pre-existing condition: Any condition, symptom or awareness of a condition for which you had prior to the start date of the insurance
– Guarantee of Payment: A legally binding letter between an insurance company and a hospital in which the insurance company alerts the hospital that the client is not responsible for the payment
– Deductible: is the total sum the insured will pay towards medical treatment in an insurance year
Ultimately, choosing the best plan by reputation is best and also making sure that you have the best coverage for your situation is paramount. Knowing what questions to ask is just as important and doing your research. As an expat, you need to be thinking long term about your insurance needs- because you are moving to your new forever home in your new forever country.
Finally- always make sure that you have your health insurance card on your person. If someone can’t find it while you are incapacitated, you may not receive the life-saving care that you need. Most hospitals won’t start treating you unless you can show proof that you are insured or can pay the bill in advance.
There are no rules about the distance traveled in expat life. Where ever your route takes you, educating yourself on insurance is important.
Global International Insurance Advisor for Pacific Prime Insurance Brokers
Pacific Prime Insurance Brokerage works with over 40 partners globally, providing options for any nationality in any country. We can offer travel and long-term health, life and accident, income protection, property, and casualty. We can tailor to individuals and employee benefit packages. Our services are 100% free to our customers. If you would like to know more on expat health Insurance please contact Deanna Marie Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
A Moment of Cats and Dawgs – Ambergris Caye Weather
Gorgeous morning yesterday, then we were left with a couple of short heavy sessions of “cats and dawgs” (Kriol a for dog) – one around dinnertime and one mid-evening. The current was temperature is a balmy 26°C or 79°F – “absolutely” perfect said the girl who flew the coop on winter forever.
I will leave you with a few recent pictures and an important reminder.
Simplicity can still be found in everyday life on this island as you see in the first picture of Belize kids enjoying a sack race in front of Mayan Princess. Picture number two is the reminder to head to the annual San Pedro Lighted Boat Parade tomorrow night for the 6 pm start. The Palapa Bar is an excellent spot to watch from and right across the road is the after-party at San Bar. So is Crazy Canucks south of town if you want a less crowded option. That is the turn around point, so you get a good view of the boats. All three places also give you the option to “adopt a bear” and buy Christmas for a child who needs it. Be sure and go to the event waterproofed just in case as it has been raining today. The last picture is from a joyride errand run yesterday morning that took us near the fitness club.