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How To Buy Health Insurance




Whether traveling, relocating or digital nomading, your health insurance will depend on your nationality or residency, or what your employer has set up for you, or a combination… Or there may be nothing limiting what healthcare services you do or don’t have access to.  The latter absolutely applies to emergency medical care, which any hospital anywhere is obligated to provide. Sometimes free, sometimes for a fee.

Between my immediate family and myself, we’ve tested the medical systems in Bermuda, Canada, the UK, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Italy, New Zealand, Australia, Iceland and Slovakia. What all this experience boils down to is that there is very good healthcare available. Many governments provide the basic care that most people require – at zero or very low cost once work permits and/or residency status are acquired. One only needs to be informed on the rules of the respective country.Chapter 4 - passport

For more intel on this international issue, I queried Bryan Tomiak at GeoBlue. Now this guy has been working the health insurance scene for over seven years so he knows what he is talking about.  Just sayin’.

1. Focusing on Millennials and younger Gen X, what kind of policies would you recommend for someone relocating to another country

after graduation or for work?

If they anticipate that they’ll be living outside the US for more than six months,

then I would recommend Xplorer Premier or Xplorer Essential. The two plans are

very similar with one major difference: Xplorer Premier offers worldwide coverage

including coverage inside the US. Xplorer Essential is typically about half the cost

of Premier, mainly due to the fact that the cost of healthcare in the United States

is typically much more expensive than many other countries around the world,

but not all – Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul – are all just as expensive.

If they happen to be living overseas as a student, teacher, or school faculty

member (and not associated with one of the universities that we already

have a student group plan with), then I would recommend our Navigator for

Student plan. If they are living overseas to perform missionary work, then I

would recommend our Navigator for Missionary plan. Both provide worldwide

coverage, including within the US. When our insured members are inside the US, our plans use the Blue Cross

Blue Shield PPO network, in which approximately 92% of doctors and 96% of hospitals are participating.MelbourneAustra

2. Most common policy/policies that expats purchase?

For long-term living overseas, Xplorer Premier is probably the most popular

since it has an unlimited medical limit and provides worldwide coverage. All of

our travel insurance plans include a medical evacuation benefit. Typically the

maximum benefit is either USD $250,000 or $500,000.

For long-term living overseas, Xplorer Premier is probably the most popular

since it has an unlimited medical limit and provides worldwide coverage. All of

our travel insurance plans include a medical evacuation benefit. Typically the

maximum benefit is either USD$250,000 or $500,000.

3. Given that local insurers provide a certain amount of coverage, what are

the advantages of tapping into GeoBlue and its global network?

E.g. NZ’s Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) covers travelers and

residents alike. Universal Medicare covers everyone in the UK.

The majority of our plans have very comprehensive medical benefits. Our

Xplorer and Navigator plans have an unlimited medical benefit. We take pride

in making our plan benefits very straightforward and easy to understand. Many

insurance companies have vague open-ended descriptions of benefits that can

be interpreted in different ways, usually to their favor. If the insured individual

decides to challenge the ruling on a benefit decision, made by one of our

offshore competitors, they are usually powerless since the company is not

subject to strict US insurance industry standards. Our Global Health and Safety

department provides 24/7/365 assistance to all of our 600,000+ members

overseas with an array of services. All of our customers have a 24/7 collect

phone number they can call for assistance with medical issues outside the US.

We have doctors and nurses available around the clock. Furthermore, GeoBlue

has an elite network of doctors from most every specialty in over 190 countries.

We seek out professionals certified by the American or Royal Board of Medical

Specialties who speak English, and we factor in recommendations by over 160

Physician Advisors from all over the world.

4. Assuming you sell fewer insurance plans in countries offer “socialized”

medicine (e.g. Canada, Sweden), where is the demand for GeoBlue’s

services the greatest?

Typically local plans only provide medical coverage within their immediate

location and only within that particular country. They also tend to have fairly

low medical maximums and rarely cover services at 100%. US expatriates

living within countries that offer socialized healthcare, such as the UK and

France, often still purchase medical insurance with GeoBlue for a number of

reasons. Within socialized healthcare countries, the free medical treatment is

only available at public medical facilities, not private facilities, which tend to be

much higher quality and operate much more efficiency. I’ve heard many stories

of patients going to public facilities with a medical emergency and having to

wait more than five hours before receiving any sort of treatment.

5.What is the standard deductible? Does the potential policyholder have

flexibility of choice?

Our long-term “expatriate” policies such as the Xplorer and Navigator have

deductible options ranging from (U.S. Dollars) $0, $500, $1,000, $2,000, up to $5,000.

Typically they are based on a calendar year. Another benefit of those policies

is the deductible is waived for both preventative care, like routine physical

exams and vaccines, as well as for general practitioner and specialist office

visits. You would generally need to pay the deductible for services such as

inpatient treatment, surgery, emergency room visits.

6. Can you share an actual scenario where GeoBlue came to the rescue?

I have assisted with hundreds of cases where one of our members was

severely injured in a location where the quality of the local healthcare was

not adequate to effectively treat that particular medical condition. In such

instances, we evacuate them using one of our air ambulance partners such as

REVA or Flying Nurses. Our Xplorer and Navigator plans also include evacuation

coverage for political unrest, states of emergency, and natural disasters. For example we evacuated several members out of Fukushima, Japan after the tsunami damaged the nuclear reactors.

The purpose of this post is to educate consumers and should not be considered a full endorsement of GeoBlue’s services. Investing in health insurance, while living abroad, ensures you get the best possible medical treatment in case of an emergency. GeoBlue offers a vast array of personalized coverage options that can be considered.


Sara Graham is an international entrepreneur, travel writer and yoga teacher currently based in Sweden.

This Q&A is an excerpt from her guidebook How To Make Big Moves: Relocate Without Losing Your Mind. You can download a free chapter from this essential resource when you visit www.howtomakebigmoves.com.


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