Written exclusively for Expat Network by Pacific Prime
Even if you currently have a government-subsidized or employer-provided health insurance policy, these plans often offer relatively basic, limited coverage. Thus, it’s best to have an individual plan to supplement these benefits and ensure adequate protection against major medical conditions.
But before you start searching for your ideal health insurance, it’s important to ask yourself this question: what exactly are your coverage needs and how much can you afford? In reality, there’s no such thing as a plan that is low in price but offers a whole spectrum of benefits, so you have to strike the balance between cost and benefits. Spend more on features that you expect you’ll require in the foreseeable future and forsake unrelated, good-to-have benefits. After all, there’s little point in adding maternity benefits to your plan when you have no plans to start a family.
To elaborate on the idea of ‘coverage needs’, there are three more specific questions you should ask yourself.
Do you have any pre-existing conditions?
Pre-existing conditions are conditions that you have developed before you start your new health insurance policy. Most plans automatically exclude pre-existing conditions, while other insurers may cover them but place a loading (a higher premium) or a moratorium (waiting period) on your plan. However, not all pre-existing conditions can be covered by these two methods, and insurers will make the decision on a case by case basis.
The third option is to take out an international health insurance plan, which provides comprehensive health benefits and tend to have more lenient terms around pre-existing conditions coverage, but the plan’s steep price may not be suitable for everyone. In this case, you have to consider whether covering your pre-existing condition or paying for the treatment out-of-pocket is more wallet-friendly.
Do you often visit the doctors?
If you don’t visit the GP often and are on a tight budget, you most probably won’t need outpatient coverage. Conversely, if you or your family member(s) often need to consult the doctors, then it pays to find a family medical insurance policy with high outpatient benefit limits.
Do you have a preferred medical clinic or doctor?
Different insurers have their own network of providers as a cost-containment measure, so you should check beforehand whether your preferred clinic/doctor is within the network. Of course, you can still consult them even if they are out-of-network, but then you likely won’t be able to get the full reimbursement.
After identifying your health insurance needs, the next step is to select which benefits to include in your plan. Naturally, the more benefits you choose, the higher your premium will be, and vice versa.
If your budget is relatively high, you can opt for benefits such as dental, optical, traditional Chinese therapy, physiotherapy, vaccinations, regular health check-ups, and more. On the other hand, if you only want the most basic coverage with the lowest premium, it might be best to find a plan with inpatient-only benefits to cover the cost of hospital treatment.
Be wary of the cheapest plan options
Although theoretically the plan with the lowest premium can save us the most money, experience tells us otherwise. The short-term gains from paying a lower premium will usually be offset by longer-term losses.
For example, some less established insurers will tout clients with ultra-low premiums, only to implement dramatic premium hikes upon renewal to compensate for their initial ‘loss’ of charging low premiums. Should this happen, it won’t be financially viable for you to keep the same plan. Of course, by that time, you can still switch to another plan with ultra-low premiums, but don’t forget the problem of pre-existing conditions. Any conditions you’ve developed when you’re with your current plan will be viewed as pre-existing by your new insurer, and thus excluded from coverage. What’s more, even if you manage to find a new insurer that is willing to cover the condition, you will have to pay a higher premium.
Other than the drastic premium increase, plans with lower premiums tend to have the following pain points:
- Poor customer service
- Low benefit limits
- Restrictive provider networks
- A high number of exclusions
- High out-of-pocket costs
Always choose more reputable insurers
More established insurers may not offer plans with ultra-low premiums, but with reputable insurers you can rest assured that their premium increases will be much more stable and predictable, so you won’t be forced to change insurers upon renewal. They are also less likely to run into profit issues as they have a much larger risk pool.
That said, there are many reputable insurers on the market, each with a whole host of insurance products available, making it extremely time-consuming to look for the right plan. That’s when the services of an established insurance brokerage can come in handy.
Contact Pacific Prime today for impartial insurance advice, an obligation-free quote, and a free plan comparison!