The Risks of being Abroad without Health Insurance
Posted by Dannielle Noonan
When you're planning a trip abroad or even relocating to another country, you might be wondering 'why is health insurance important?'. As insurance experts, Medibroker have seen cases of people going abroad without insurance go catastrophically wrong.
Here, #ExpatHour participant and blogger Alec Peebles tells us about how he thought he could get away with going to another country without insurance - and explains the costs he incurred because of his mistake.
Alec graduated university in Winter of 2013 and knew that jumping into the daily 9-5 USA grind wasn't for him. He had always loved to travel so he figured it was as good a time as any to take the plunge and try actually living in a new country. Over a year later, he's still enjoying every day of his expat life, living and working in Thailand and blogging about it at Abroad With Alec.
Alec thought that travel insurance would cover him for his move abroad until he found a job and was able to benefit from employee health insurance. But what happens when your protection from travel insurance ends before your employee health insurance starts?
Being abroad without insurance is risky a move. When I first began my travels I was on a tight budget. I had a policy from a reputable travel insurance supplier that was supposed to last me until I found a job in Thailand, the country I’d chosen to relocate to. However the problem came when I found a job and discovered that my employee health insurance wouldn't come into effect for another month, thus creating a lapse in my coverage. I had two choices – spend the month hoping I wouldn't have any medical issues, or shell out more money to prolong my travel insurance coverage. At this time money was tight, and I figured that because in all my time traveling I’d never even used my insurance, surely I’d be okay for a month, right? Huge mistake.
The problems began just a few days after my coverage expired with a bit of an upset stomach. It’s Thailand. It happens. A trip to the doctor and she said I was fine. Luckily doctor visits like this are cheap in Thailand and only cost me $20 (which is not something I’d even bother with getting reimbursement for really). However this was only the beginning. Within a few more days I had a fever that was reaching over 100* F at times, and I felt like death. After two days of battling this with over the counter medicines and home remedies I finally relented and went to the hospital. Of course the news I received was not good – I was going to need to be admitted, put on an IV, and watched overnight. Healthcare in Thailand is cheap, but I knew this was going to cost quite a bit.
Alec would never have ignored his symptoms if he had health cover.
After my treatment was finished I was released, feeling much better. I cautiously made my way to the payment window to see what the damage was going to be. For the room, medicine, and all other fees my total was $400. Compared to prices for private medical treatment at home this was an absolute bargain, but when you’re young and in the midst of relocating halfway across the world it’s a fairly substantial amount of money. Of course, had I not let my travel insurance lapse I would have been fully reimbursed.
The costs of medical attention overseas for uninsured expats can be extortionate in other parts of the world. Did you know that an international health insurance plan will not only cover the costs of medical treatment in your expat country, but will also protect you wherever you go?
Since starting my job I’ve been involved in two motorbike accidents and had to make numerous small trips to the hospital for various ailments. Now that I have a comprehensive international health insurance plan from my employer, it’s a walk in the park. Just get a receipt and certificate, take it to my employer, and the money is given back to me in my following paycheck.
So take a lesson from my mistakes – illnesses, accidents, and many other things CAN and WILL happen to you at some point. Make sure you have the proper coverage lest you want to risk an unfortunate health hiccup derailing all of your plans.
Medibroker can find you health cover for your move abroad. Request a no-obligation quote and one of our experienced team will get straight back to you to discuss your specific needs. Our health insurance broker service is completely free and we operate in your best interests - we are 100% impartial and you will never get a lower price by going to an insurer direct.
Planning a move to Thailand, just like Alec? Check out our guide to the best places for expats in Thailand.