International Health Insurance — What Is It and Should You Get One?

Expat health insurance in Singapore provides a wide range of health protection for foreigners. Find out more about it to decide if such insurance is for you.

international health insurance

Whether you’re a foreign executive who has recently moved to Singapore or a Singaporean student moving abroad to further your education, one key item on your to-do list should be to ensure that you are well protected with adequate international health insurance or overseas student insurance from insurers like International AETNA or Cigna Global.

Why? Because you can easily gain access to public healthcare, emergency assistance and financial support with minimal disruption. This is especially important when you’re in a foreign land where you’re not familiar with where or how to get medical help.

If you’re not sure if global health insurance is suitable for you, read on to find out the important aspects of such a policy.

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What Is International Health Insurance?

International health insurance or expat health insurance, which you can find in Singapore, are policies that cover you financially when you are seeking medical treatment abroad. They provide expatriates living or working outside of their home country for a prolonged period of time a comprehensive hospitalisation and medical treatment coverage regionally or globally.

Because expatriates are not eligible for government subsidies and do not have local health insurance (like MediShield Life or Integrated Shield Plan in Singapore), seeking medical treatments can be costly. Especially for those who prefer exclusive private healthcare services, the costs will easily escalate beyond affordable levels.

As such, international health insurance can come in very handy when unexpected medical emergencies arise or when critical illnesses are diagnosed. Thankfully, most insurers offer all-inclusive core plans with the option to add on riders such as dental checks, health screenings and pregnancy so that the health plans can be tailored even more closely to policyholders’ needs.

Features and Coverage of International Health Insurance

Here’s a closer look at what a typical expat health insurance in Singapore from Allianz* Care looks like:

Maximum claim limitS$2,925,000 to S$6,500,000
Hospitalisation/ Surgical benefitsPrivate room / Inclusive
Emergency in-patient dental treatmentInclusive
Day-care treatment/ Kidney dialysisInclusive
Outpatient surgeryInclusive
Rehabilitation treatmentS$4,400 to S$7,800
Nursing at homeS$4,400 to S$7,500
Medical evacuationInclusive (Max of 7 days)
Emergency out-patient treatmentS$1,320
24/7 Medical assistanceProvided
Add-on riders
  • Dental
  • Eye checks
  • Pregnancy
  • Out-patient
  • Repatriation
Coverage DurationYearly contract or minimum 3-month for Flexicare contract
Geographical coverageWorldwide or worldwide excluding USA

*Allianz is a strategic partner of International AETNA.

Since international health insurance caters for those residing in a foreign country on a long-term basis, the policy tends to pack many essential medical coverages so that policyholders can enjoy convenient medical support even without local government subsidies or insurance.

Importantly, the plans enable policyholders to obtain  a flexible range of medical treatments conveniently, as long as they are within yearly claim limits. A core plan will usually grant policyholders a thorough selection of medical services such as consultations at General Practitioner (GP) clinics, ongoing treatments for pre-existing conditions, hospitalisation subsidies and even medical evacuation should an emergency arise.

When choosing a global health insurance plan, take heart that this is a long-term commitment that can impact your quality of life abroad. Don’t just choose a policy with the lowest rates but one that can offer sufficient medical support. Always read the fine prints or refer to a consultant to fully understand the policy before signing up for one.

The Difference Between Travel Insurance and International Health Insurance

luggage for travel
Source: Unsplash

International health insurance is not the same as travel insurance even though they do have some overlapping benefits. Here’s a quick comparison of the two types of policies.

Policy FeaturesInternational Health InsuranceTravel Insurance
Profile of policyholderExpats living abroadHolidaymakers
Emergency medical coverageCoveredCovered
Regular medical check upsCoveredNot covered
Rehabilitation treatmentCoveredNot covered
Maternity coverCoveredNot covered
Chronic medical coverCoveredNot covered
Medical EvacuationCoveredCovered
Trip delays and cancellationsNot coveredCovered
Baggage delaysNot coveredCovered
Loss of baggage and personal belongingsNot coveredCovered
Personal liabilityNot coveredCovered
Coverage DurationYearly contract or minimum 3-month contractUp to 90 days

International health insurance is for travellers or expats residing in a foreign country. Such a policy offers a wider range of medical-related benefits that are not readily available from travel insurance. For example, coverages for chronic illnesses, maternity and dental treatments are items you’ll find in an international health plan but not in travel insurance.

However, travel insurance does have travel-related compensations that are lacking in global health insurance. If you encounter inconveniences like loss of baggage, trip cancellation and flight delay while you’re on the road, travel insurance will get you covered in those areas but international health insurance will not.

Who Is International Health Insurance Best Suited For?

International health insurance is useful for those moving out of their home country for at least a year. These insurance policies provide extensive medical support to overseas students and working expatriates who are unfamiliar with foreign healthcare systems and without access to local health insurance or government subsidies.

For those with pre-existing conditions, predisposed to certain critical illnesses, or planning to get pregnant, buying a global plan or expat health insurance in Singapore will assure them of continual medical treatments, even while they live abroad. This eliminates the need to take frequent trips home just for regular medical checks.

To make an informed choice, check out our guide to the best health insurance plans in the market.

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