Whether the trip is a relocation for employment, as part of retirement or simply for a change of scene, emigrating to another country is a serious and significant experience. In the excitement of planning the move, finding appropriate housing and moving thousands of miles away, one of the most significant elements is often overlooked: namely health care. People otherwise in good health may not think twice about whether they have the right health insurance and how they will obtain care and medicine when needed, but for someone who already has a chronic condition or health issue, the topic is an important one.
Photo by: Till Krech
How to Avoid Health Issues While Emigrating
Quality of health care abroad
Health care abroad has garnered a reputation for being poor, unmodern and, at times, verging on barbaric, but this is far from the truth. While some nationalized systems leave something to be desired, medical care in foreign countries is actually very professional, with easy-to-navigate systems and, in many cases, much lower costs. Cost-savings is a big motivator for many Americans seeking care in other countries, including major surgeries, and the results are quite satisfying.
EU nations, Israel, Japan, New Zealand and Australia all have quality health care systems; this quality costs, however, and the cost of living is frequently quite high in these areas. For more affordable living, as well as affordable health care, countries such as India are a good bet. English is a common language due to the country’s history as part of the British Commonwealth, and many of the doctors were educated in the UK and have a sort of approval stamp on them from their universities.
International health insurance
Health insurance is anything but inexpensive and international health insurance is no exception. The policies that offer the best coverage are often very expensive, while affordable policies tend to come with exceptions that are quite surprising for people emigrating from the US, where employers offer more comprehensive coverage as a part of job compensation. With government supplements such as Medicare and Medicaid out of reach in foreign countries, access to high quality care could be restricted to those with the cash money to pay for it.
Age may also be an issue for international emigrants, since health insurers view age as being equal to risk. Older emigrants can find themselves paying outrageous premiums to maintain adequate coverage. Coverage is based on individual assessment and they decide whether to offer coverage, what conditions may be excluded and how much the premium will be.
Pre-existing health issues also present some difficulties and may prevent an emigrant from purchasing a long-term plan. Conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer may result in an automatic declination of coverage for a long-term policy. However, short-term policies, designed for temporary visitors, may offer more coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.
Accessibility to care and medications
Accessing care in a foreign country can be complicated, particularly for expats. In many cases, non-residents of the country involved may not be free to simply walk in and use any hospital; if they are able to get in, they may not be able to access the medical services that they require. However, if the expat has an international insurance plan, they could be evacuated to the hospital or other medical facility that will offer them the best treatment possible.
When expats cannot access the treatment and care that they need in their chosen country, they may be able to obtain surgeries or treatments through medical tourism. Medical tourism entails a great deal of thorough research which ultimately culminates in the expat journeying to another country to obtain the medical treatment they need, usually with minimal expense. Many countries offer high quality procedures and treatments for as little as one-fourth the cost of the same treatment in a US hospital.
Accessing medications is important for any expat moving to a new country. Many medications for heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, cancer and other chronic and debilitating illnesses are approved for sale in foreign countries just as they are in the US and may be purchased with a valid doctor’s prescription on record without difficulty. There are a couple of considerations, however. Many medications in foreign countries are prepared and sold in different incarnations than they are in the US; some are combined with other medications, or are prepared in larger dosages, or are different in form or color than the US version. Some careful research and an open discussion with the new doctor should yield good results.
Another factor that could complicate obtaining medications abroad is the price, though this may actually prove to be quite reasonable. Even reasonably-priced medications may be less expensively purchased through online pharmacies either based in-country or in another country such as Canada. An expat who needs a prescription for Mometasone can buy Mometasone via an online pharmacy and be assured the product is safe, the dose accurate and the price reasonable.