Should I Buy International Health Insurance?

Business - October 19th, 2007
Magellan Japan

Provided by MAGELLAN:
THE FINANCIAL PLANNING COMPANY
Tel. 03-3769-5511 

Feeling unwell, needing a minor or major operation? Unsure of Japanese hospitals and medical practices and of course the language difficulties? The last thing you want to worry about is how to deal with the stress of finding a suitable doctor or hospital, on top of feeling unwell.

When you are away from home, you want to know that you and your family will be able to access good quality healthcare at any private or public hospital or clinic for medical treatment without having to worry about the costs.

Private Medical Insurance (PMI) offers the reassurance and peace of mind so that you can have the treatment at a time and place that suits you and your lifestyle. Many companies offer cover and these are usually split into different levels depending on your specific requirements and can often include dental as well as medical cover. The rule of thumb is—the more cover you want, the higher the cost of the premium. Another factor that needs to be taken into account is where you are living and whether you need to have coverage in the US. US medical fees are higher than anywhere else in the world, so be prepared for higher premiums if you intend on being treated there.

Premiums are age-related and policies are sold on an annual renewable basis. The older you get, the higher the risk so the higher the premium. Some policies have a facility for you to self-insure for smaller claims, only paying out for larger medical bills. This way you can reduce your premiums. Often you can also get a no claims discount if you haven’t claimed in the policy year. Naturally, once you claim that discount disappears until you build up further no claims history.

Be aware most insurers will not accept pre-existing medical conditions for up to two years. They do this to avoid paying out immediately if you have a chronic illness. The policies are designed to cover acute illnesses and all the attendant costs, including medication and physiotherapy, and are increasingly accepting treatment from alternative practitioners such as chiropractors and acupuncturists. Dental cover is usually limited to restoring original teeth only.

It is now possible to include regular health checks, covering things such as cancer screening, cardiovascular examinations, neurological examinations, well child tests, vital sign tests (e.g. blood pressure, cholesterol checks) and vaccinations.

Many of the international policies are available in three currency options of US Dollar, Euros and Sterling. You can pay the premiums monthly, quarterly or annually. You will find that costs increase according to the number of premiums that need collecting, so annually is often the cheapest option. For ease of payment it is best to set these up on your credit card. One tip here is to use a credit card with an air miles program for your medical insurance premiums, in order to benefit from the air miles.