Updated: December 13, 2019

International Private Medical Insurance

Moving abroad and concerned about healthcare costs? We'll look at the importance of private international medical insurance, and how to find the right cover for your circumstances

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Richard Angliss

Author: Richard Angliss - Finance Expert

Updated: December 13, 2019

Moving to a new country can be a very exciting time for you and your family. It can also be quite a nervous period as you adjust to your new life outside the UK.

One of the first duties you need to take care of is to ensure you are all protected in the event of a medical emergency or health issue.

Putting in place comprehensive private medical insurance cover can help provide peace of mind as you attempt to familiarise yourself with your new surroundings.

In this article we take a closer look at international private medical insurance, or private health insurance, as it is also known, why it is necessary and how you can find the best cover for your own personal circumstances.

What is international private medical insurance?

As the name suggests, international private medical insurance is an insurance policy designed for UK citizens who move overseas for a prolonged period (typically for more than one month) and can provide appropriate health care provision on a worldwide basis.

Why is it necessary?

The availability of public health care provision can vary quite significantly from country to country (in some countries it may not be available to foreign nationals at all) and is rarely as comprehensive as that provided in the UK by the NHS.

In this respect, consideration for some form of private health insurance cover is, perhaps, more important if you’re an expat living abroad than if you were still resident in the UK.

In fact, certain territories will stipulate that it is compulsory for non-nationals to have private medical cover before granting a residency visa or work permit (Australia, Switzerland and the UAE, for example).

Public healthcare in the UK is only available if you’re a resident and paying National Insurance contributions. Therefore, if you’re planning to take up residency in another country (whether permanently or for a fixed period) you cannot continue to use this service.

The UK has a number of reciprocal healthcare agreements with other countries and international territories, the details for each country is outlined on the main NHS website. 

Can I use a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) if I’m resident in a country within this area?

Yes you can. However, this will only apply whilst the UK remains within the EU.

An EHIC card will become immediately invalid should the UK leave on a ‘no-deal’ basis (unless the treatment you’re receiving began before a ‘no-deal’ Brexit).

Should I consider private health insurance if I’m a UK expat living in France?

Yes, it’s definitely something you should give consideration to.

While the public health system in France will provide some assistance for any medical needs you may have, a private health insurance plan will provide further cover for complete peace of mind.

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Should I consider private health insurance if I’m a UK expat living in Spain?

Spain actually has quite a comprehensive public healthcare system which is paid for, as with the NHS, through National Insurance contributions. Regardless of this, a private health insurance plan will provide further cover in addition to what the Spanish state system can provide.

If you’d like to know more about why international private medical insurance is so important and how it can provide assistance in the country where you’re moving to, make an enquiry and we will arrange for an advisor we work with to get in touch.

Should I consider private health insurance if I’m a UK expat living in Germany?

Expats living in Germany are entitled to subsidized state healthcare, so you will most likely need to take out private health insurance for additional support. All German residents are legally obliged to be insured for hospital and outpatient treatment, and you’ll need to show proof of health insurance when applying for a German visa or residence permit.

Should I consider private health insurance if I’m a UK expat living in Italy?

Many services provided by the Italian national health service is free or for a fee from the insured, and you need to apply to the healthcare system after a 3-month residency.

What health cover is offered typically varies from region to region, so if you plan on travelling, private health insurance could provide you with more protection.

Private health care is usually quite expensive in Italy, so if you need access to faster and/or specialist treatment, an international private health insurance plan would most likely work out better for expats compared with a local one.

Should I consider private health insurance if I’m a UK expat living in Turkey?

If you’re under 65 and planning on living in Turkey as a UK expat, then private health insurance is mandatory and without it you won’t be able to gain residency in this country. However, if you’re over 65, you no longer have to take out private health insurance, as this rule was scrapped in 2014.

For more information about choosing the right health insurance for residency in Turkey, speak to an expert for a free, no-obligation chat.

What type of cover does international private medical insurance provide?

The level and variety of cover available will differ depending on the type of policy and the provider you choose (and also the country where you reside).

Typically, international private medical insurance can provide the following benefits:

  • Doctors / medical appointments
  • Specialist consultations
  • Regular prescriptions and vaccinations
  • Extended medical care for chronic conditions
  • Both in-patient and out-patient treatment
  • Dental treatment
  • Emergency transportation / repatriation to the UK

As everyone’s circumstances and reasons for moving abroad will vary the types of plans available will also differ depending upon your requirements:

Short term international private medical insurance

This type of plan would generally provide cover for up to one year and would be most suitable for anyone who is only planning to remain abroad within this timescale (to cover a short-term work assignment or extended period of travel, for example).

Long term international private medical insurance

This type of plan would be most suited to anyone who is planning to remain in their country of residence for more than one year (suitable if you have an employment contract for a fixed number of years or are retiring abroad).

Private health insurance for international students

This type of plan is designed for anyone who is looking to move abroad to study in a particular country outside the UK. This kind of cover is usually  available on a renewable 12-month basis, therefore, can be extended if required.

If you’d like to know more about the different types of cover and plans available with international private medical insurance, give us a call on 0808 189 0463 or make an enquiry and  we’ll arrange for a specialist to contact you directly.

How do I compare different types of international private medical insurance?

The obvious place to start is by searching the internet. At the very least this will help you familiarise yourself with the different products available and the variety of cover on offer.

Comparing different products online is no guarantee that you will find the policy and cover that is best for your personal circumstances. This is where we can help.

The advisors we work with are all independent financial advisors operating  on a ‘whole of market’ basis. They will use their knowledge and expertise to help you better understand and compare all the different nuances of each private medical insurance plan so you can make an informed choice.

Give us a call on 0808 189 0463 or get in touch and we’ll match you with the right expert who will help answer your questions and discuss your options in more detail.

Who are the best UK providers of international private medical insurance?

There are a number of highly regarded companies who offer international private medical insurance, such as :

  • Bupa Global
  • InterGlobal (now known as Aetna International)
  • Allianz
  • Axa

As with finding the right products, the best way to find a provider who can cater for your specific needs and requirements is to use the services of an independent advisor to help you identify the right solution to fit your circumstances.

They will be able to gather and compare quotes and study the fine print to ensure you’re paying for the cover you want and need.

Speak to one of the expert advisors we work with…

Speak to a private medical insurance expert

If you’re about to move overseas for a prolonged period, there’s no doubt that some form of worldwide private health insurance is an absolute necessity in order to provide the right cover for you and your loved ones.

The advisors we work with can help you find the best policy and provider best suited for your own circumstances.

All advice is free and any information is always given in the strictest confidence. Call us on 0808 189 0463 or make an enquiry to get started

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Richard Angliss

Richard Angliss

Finance Expert

About the author

Richard Angliss has made a career in financial services which stretches over 40 years.

His early career was spent learning about the various financial products and applying them to prudent advice, working for one of the largest life assurance and investment firms. After that he joined the financial services arm of a very well-known firm providing independent advice to their 8 million customers.

For the last 20 years he has been involved in building software solutions that help Advisers and clients work together to achieve good financial outcomes and helping to set up three independent advisory firms. He also has written many articles for financial services publications and provided commentary for newspaper journalists.

At an early stage in his career he realised the great satisfaction that comes with being able to help people achieve their goals and protect their families. “Regulation of financial services has hugely impacted on ensuring people get appropriate advice. The issue these days is access to that advice and just as importantly regular reviews to make sure that everything stays on track”.

With the growing development of online resources such as Online Money Advisor he sees a great future for people to access advice to make their pension and investment work harder for them.  Plus, of course, to ensure they have insurance products in place that will be required when unforeseen events happen.

He knows getting that balance right is crucial to prudent financial planning and the wellbeing of individuals and their families.

FCA Disclaimer

*Based on our research, the content contained in this article is accurate as of the most recent time of writing. Lender criteria and policies change regularly so speak to one of the advisors we work with to confirm the most accurate up to date information. The information on the site is not tailored advice to each individual reader, and as such does not constitute financial advice. All advisors working with us are fully qualified to provide mortgage advice and work only for firms that are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. They will offer any advice specific to you and your needs.

Some types of buy to let mortgages are not regulated by the FCA. Think carefully before securing other debts against your home. As a mortgage is secured against your home, it may be repossessed if you do not keep up with repayments on your mortgage. Equity released from your home will also be secured against it.

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