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Posted by Karen Thornalley

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Why Expat & International Medical Insurance, is as important as your passport when you live or work overseas…

Whether you are working, travelling or living abroad for long periods – living the life as an expat can be exciting and rewarding times for you and your family. But as we all know, life can throw up unexpected obstacles and challenges and this is particularly so when it comes to accessing and affording quality healthcare overseas for which you and your family deserve and expect. In this article, Martin Rothwell, Managing Director of leading travel and medical insurance specialists World First and Carl Carter, Managing Director of the award winning international medical insurance provider IMG Europe, give you an introduction to expat medical insurance and some points to consider to help you ensure you get the quality cover you need at a price you can afford.

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What is Expat Medical Insurance? Expat medical insurance, often referred to as international private medical insurance (iPMI),  is a form of private medical insurance that exists to provide insurance protection and services to assist when someone is primarily living or working outside of their country of citizenship i.e. as an expat. With the growth of internationally mobile citizens who may live and work in multiple residences overseas, it has also evolved in many cases to include coverage at home and overseas – not just as an expat.

In many cases travel insurance is not suitable for people living or working overseas for long periods, this is because travel insurance often requires you to return back home for further treatment when you are fit to fly. This may be the last thing you, your family or employer want if you usually live and work overseas.

Why Take Out Expat Medical Insurance? Very few countries around the world have a state or national healthcare system, and even when they do, the service it provides isn’t necessarily of the highest quality compared to private medical facilities, many have long waiting lists or may not be to the standards you may have been used to back at home. Plus in many cases, as a foreigner you may not be eligible to (or even want to) access it and returning to your country of citizenship for treatment is often not an option, especially in an emergency. In addition to this, your employer may not want you to be left at the whim of a waiting list for treatment and naturally will want you to seek treatment and a fast recovery locally so you can get back to work as soon as possible and in the best health.

In some parts of the world, the medical facilities available to you locally may be basic and in many cases may not be able to provide you with the medical treatment or facilities you require, especially in a life threatening medical emergency. So even if there is a medical facility nearby, it may not be able to treat you and in which case you would often need an emergency medical evacuation to transport you to a medical facility that is qualified to treat you. In some cases this may be by air ambulance, and these evacuations can in some cases run into the $100,000s – far beyond most families or even employers pockets.

So taking the above into consideration, having quick access to quality treatment and the best medical facilities is one of the primary reasons why many people and their employers take out expat medical insurance.

One of the most important reasons to take out expat medical insurance is that it can help protect you, your family and your employer from potentially devastating financial costs of medical treatment. Cover could range from family doctor costs of just a few $100 for basic treatment, through to emergency surgery following a road traffic accident that could easily run into $50,000 even up to the $100,000s for cancer treatment or major surgery.

What to Look For in Expat Medical Insurance? The good news is that there are a wide range of plans and coverages available to meet both your circumstances and your budget. Many plans are flexible and coverage can be adapted to help contain costs. Here are some examples of how to keep your premium down:

  • Choose a plan and level of cover that suits your needs, if you don’t want say maternity or dental cover, or just want a plan that covers in-patient treatment then these are available.
  • Choose an area of cover that suits your travel pattern, if you don’t need cover in the USA then by de-selecting that country can make a big saving on your premium.
  • By increasing your excess (contribution towards a claim) and paying by instalments means you can reduce your premium payments quite substantially in many cases.
  • But there’s more than just premium and cover to consider. Service and portability are key factors to consider when choosing an expat medical plan.
  • Choose a plan that is flexible and portable, which can move about with you or even in some circumstances move back home with you. Be cautious of getting ‘stuck’ with a cheap local plan that may not allow you to move to, or seek treatment in a different country, let alone back home.
  • Choose a plan from a well-established specialist award winning expat medical insurance provider, such as IMG Europe. And, make sure their products have the financial credibility and stability to ensure they’ll be around to pay your claim if you should ever have one.

World First Are Here To Help ExpatMoney Readers… At first glance the above can be a little daunting, but there are specialist insurance brokers around who are experienced and skilled in knowing the products and helping match these to your personal demands and needs. That’s why the team at World First have teamed up with Expat Money and are at our readers disposal to help you obtain the right cover at a great price – wherever you may be in the world for cover from a few days to many years.

For more information and a great deal on your expat medical insurance or travel insurance, please contact

or for online quotes 24/7 and further information go to


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