Expat private healthcare costs soaring beyond affordable levels

Published:  23 Aug at 6 PM
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Insurers offering private healthcare policies are sitting pretty as regards revenue, whilst expats living overseas are struggling to find funds for the swingeing annual increases imposed.

As with just about everything else in the 21st century, the cost of private healthcare has more to do with profits than with service. Providing a safety net for unexpected illnesses or accidents is especially important for expats, many of whom are retired and don’t have a relocation package covering the ever-rising costs of private heathcare.

Unsurprisingly, the most expensive policies relate to the USA, with an elderly expat expected to find an annual premium of up to £17,000, although cheaper premiums with less cover may be available. Premium costs in Canada and Dubai are rising the fastest, fuelled by the chance to extract as much as possible from companies providing private heathcare packages to expat employees.

Industry professionals believe that dramatic increases in premiums in Dubai are marking the trend for the rest of the worldwide industry. Other top-dollar charging countries for health insurance include Singapore, Hong Kong and China, again with concentrations of expats whose premium costs are paid by their employers.

Whilst heathcare premiums are far less expensive in third-world countries such as Thailand and the Philippines, the state of the heathcare provided is often less than adequate for the amount charged. It’s common for private hospitals to refuse to treat the sick unless a credit card or private health insurance is offered before admission, and claims can be fraught with problems.

Retired expats living in EU countries such as Spain have recently been hit by a double whammy of exclusion from both the Spanish free heathcare service and the UK’s collapsing National Health Service. Many are on the measly UK state pension, having moved overseas to take advantage of a lower cost of living and better weather. Few will be able to afford private health insurance.

Reasons for increases given by insurers include the latest in modern medical technology and the high cost of drugs and treatments. However, many believe the real reason, especially outside first world countries, is the existence of an unavoidable cash cow. Many countries’ public hospitals are of low standard, and language difficulties can make an emergency a disaster in short order.
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