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Heading Abroad? Must Read Travel Tips

 

Every day globally, tens of thousands of individuals and families embark on journeys for short-term travel or to become resident overseas. For most, travel is an incident-free fun-filled experience, however sometimes the best laid plans can be impacted by a variety of unexpected events.

By planning ahead and finding the right information, the risk of encountering difficulties while abroad can be reduced. We’ve put together some travel tips, in no particular order, to give you the upper hand when it comes to your expatriate journey.

  1. Research the destination

Before committing to any travel or moving plans, research the country of interest thoroughly, including any bordering countries.  Check which vaccinations are required, the travel warnings and advice issued by your home country about that destination, the medical services available and the climate you’ll be going into upon arrival. Being fully informed prior to confirming those flights will help with planning and mitigating the variety of risks which come with the expatriate journey.

  1. Register your plans with the embassy or consulate of your home country

Many governments run online registers for their own nationals to enter their residence or travel details.  This is so that an embassy or consulate in that particular country can disseminate information quickly to large groups of expatriates regarding natural disasters or significant events.  If disaster occurs and services are subsequently limited, those in affected areas can be quickly identified and put at the top of the list for a wellness check.

  1. Leave a copy of your travel itinerary with family

Include various contact numbers.  This can be tricky if you don’t have exact dates of where you will be at a particular time, but try to be as accurate as possible.  If you know which area you will be in on the 20th because you have an event that day, write it down.  Give relatives points to work from, that way if you go off course and do not arrive at [x] on [y], they can seek help from relevant authorities or contact points.

  1. Take out the right insurance – know what is and isn’t covered

This is often overlooked, but is one of the most important elements of any journey.  At some stage, an illness, injury or other travel-related event will occur, and you will need to call upon your insurance policy or the 24 hour healthcare advice service the insurer provides.  Whether it’s a small injury needing a doctor’s attention, stolen belongings or a full-scale medical emergency requiring evacuation, failing to plan is planning to fail.  If you need advice on which travel or medical cover is appropriate for you, ask a professional. Global Albatross can and will explain the different types of cover available – and the service is free, so save yourself and your family time and stress, and get it sorted: http://globalalbatross.com/.

  1. Save your insurer’s emergency number to your phone

If you find yourself requiring emergency care, you won’t be the one calling, so ensure family and/or friends save the number to their phones as well.  This way they’ll be able to let your insurer know the situation and where you are. Also, make sure you save your broker’s number into your phone.  Any good broker will ensure all the right resources are activated during a medical event, big or small, and that you receive all the benefits you are entitled to under your policy.  An insurer will not automatically point those benefits out, so put your broker on your phone.  Remember, brokering services are free, so use them.

  1. Health System

It’s important to know the level of medical care available in a country and whether it is accessible to expatriates through a public or private system.  People who have lived or worked in the country of your choice are a good resource as their information is often based on experience.

  1. Get a first aid kit

The contents of a first aid kit will vary according to the destination.  It won’t need to be as comprehensive for example if travelling to Australia due to its accessible health system, as it will be for China, where facilities are lacking in many areas.  Sometimes, you just can’t get to a hospital or doctor because of things beyond your control, so an up-to-date medical kit with basic supplies from plasters and pain relief to antihistamines and diarrhoea treatments may be helpful.

  1. Pain relief

This can technically go under the tip for a first aid kit, but considering it is such an important topic, we gave it a section of its own. Everyone at some stage will suffer with various types of pain whilst living overseas, and we can’t stress enough how much of a lifesaver a couple of pain relievers or anti-inflammatories will be on a 8+ hour bus trip over a semi-tarsealed road.

  1. Keep passports in a secure place

Having to replace a passport whilst overseas can be a time intensive as well as expensive exercise.  Keeping your passport on you instead of in general luggage is a good idea.  You could be on a bus travelling through remote country and all the luggage falls off a cliff face as the vehicle winds through a tight bend.  It’s a much better idea to keep important documents in a money belt or a pocket that isn’t easily accessible to light-fingered thieves.

  1. Store important documentation in the cloud

Make electronic copies of passports and any other important documents for storage in an electronic depository.  In the event you experience an emergency or lose your belongings along with identity and medical documents, nothing will quite compare to being able to bring up copies on icloud.  It could save you significant time and money in the event you have to prove your identity or provide information to a medical facility.

  1. Mobile phone with international coverage

This might seem like an obvious one in our world of ever-growing technology, but it’s definitely worth a mention. Phone durability is always good, particularly when dropped on a myriad of surfaces around the globe, as well as additional battery life.  A waterproof phone is even better if you might be battling the elements, but whichever way, you never know when you might need to make a call or use the camera, so keep it ready and charged.

  1. Know the cultural do’s and don’ts

Familiarise yourself with the etiquette of the country in question.  From not blowing your nose in public in Japan, to avoiding jaywalking in Germany, save the embarrassment and learn the protocols.  You’ll fit in more easily to your surroundings and be commended for it.

  1. Store money in different locations

Socks, underwear bands, shoes, the lining of a backpack or bag.  Make sure you have some extra cash somewhere and ensure it’s not easy to find.  In the unlucky event all your belongings are lost or stolen, being able to reach into your shoe and pull out some cash for a bed and a meal until you can access more money… you will thank yourself more times than you can count.

 

Global Albatross is a specialist advisory focusing on international medical and travel insurance for expatriates.  If you have a query regarding your current policy, we can answer it. If you are considering taking out a policy, we can provide options.  

Global Albatross knows the areas of cover, the depth of policies, the inclusions and exclusions, and we know the questions to ask.  We help ease the burden of travelling, relocating, living and working overseas. And our service is free. contact us today.

 

Thinking baby? Think Maternity Insurance!

 

Pregnancy is an expensive process, particularly while away from a home country.  Pre-natal care and regular doctor’s visits, delivery and post-natal care…..the costs start adding up. If expenses for unforeseen complications are added to the mix, what was initially a few thousand dollars could start escalating into the tens of thousands, and that’s before baby even blesses the world with his or her presence.

Thinking about maternity cover in the early stages of planning for a family is sensible. If a policy is arranged in advance of pregnancy, the standard wait periods – which are inherent in all policies, is satisfied and policy benefits can be fully utilised. A maternity policy ensures mother and baby are well protected throughout pregnancy and delivery, particularly in the event any complications arise during the pregnancy, birth and/or the early days of the child’s life. Such a policy is especially important if an adverse event occurs during the birth and baby needs additional support such as a stay in a neonatal unit.

Types of Cover and Policy Benefits

Maternity cover is an add-on benefit to many international medical insurance policies. Cover includes routine pre-natal care, specialist fees, hospital charges, midwife fees, delivery including emergency c-section, postnatal care, newborn care and typically the life of the newly arrived for the first 30 days. Complications arising during childbirth are also covered, with pregnancy complications usually being covered by an in-patient section of a policy.

There are a number of cost payment options to choose from. Where costs associated with pregnancy and delivery are invoiced directly to the insurer, this is typically referred to as direct-billing. An excess or co-pay option is also available, whereby costs are met personally up to a stipulated amount or percentage, and the remainder paid by the insurer direct to the medical facility of choice.

These options vary depending on the insurer and their policies. Not all insurers offer direct-billing in all countries, therefore low cost scans and check-ups are likely to be on a pay-and-claim basis, which means costs are met personally and then claimed from the insurer. If this option is chosen, it is important to know the reimbursement timeframes that an insurer generally follows. 

Most private hospitals provide birthing packages. To avoid paying out-of-pocket for high-cost specialised care, it is beneficial to request pre-authorisation. This is important in order to ensure that reimbursement amounts are not reduced by the insurer through failing to act on this type of clause inherent in most policies.

Depending on the level of cover chosen, certain limits may be applied to particular benefits. This will determine the quality of medical facility one might choose for pre-natal, delivery and post-natal care for example.

Wait Periods

A wait period is a timeframe stipulated by the insurer under which they will not cover any expenses related to pregnancy. The wait period can vary between 10-12 months. Arranging maternity cover far enough in advance of starting a family is therefore important to ensure all of the benefits available under are policy are delivered from the beginning of a pregnancy, rather than having to pay some of the expenses personally.  

If pregnancy occurs during the wait period, all costs need to be met personally until the end of the wait period. As long as the birth occurs after the renewal of the policy, any subsequent care or treatment will be covered up to the limits noted for maternity benefits.

Second Baby and Beyond

If a policy that was established for a previous pregnancy has remained unchanged, it’s likely all benefits are already in place. This means no wait period is applicable and any complications that may have arisen during the previous pregnancy or birth will be covered.

For those who are thinking of changing insurers but are still considering a second or subsequent child or children, it will be important to consider all the options prior to committing to any possible change.    

Likewise, serious consideration will need to be given before any possible change where complications arose in an earlier pregnancy or birth, as an insurer is likely to consider these as pre-existing conditions and may exclude such conditions. These might include for example the development of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia or requiring a caesarean section to facilitate the safe arrival of baby.

Continuing an existing policy will close out the risk of having conditions excluded under a policy.

A change in insurers before completing a family can result in severely limited cover, so it is important to weigh up the options carefully.

Already Pregnant?

Pregnancy is viewed as a pre-existing condition by all international insurers, therefore cover for maternity-related treatment cannot be obtained. However provision is made by some insurers to cover pregnancy complications, therefore some protection can be put in place to cover worst-case scenarios.

Newborns

Medical treatment for newborns is notoriously expensive and could easily run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars if a stay in a neonatal unit is required, so it is worth considering the options available if you are already pregnant, as some form of cover is better than none at all. 

Newborn plans cover any medical treatment required due to complications, illness or injury from the day baby joins the world, and includes routine care such as doctor’s visits and vaccinations.

Most in-patient sections of expatriate policies include some form of cover and is set for a period of 30-90 days, and up to a set amount. Adding your child to your policy within that period will mean the status of your child’s health won’t be assessed and any conditions he/she is born with will be covered by the child’s policy moving forward. 

How We Help!

Arranging a policy to ensure quality care is available both before and after baby arrives is important to ensure financial distractions are mitigated and the focus can rest on the more important task of nurturing a pregnancy through to delivery.

Global Albatross is a specialist advisory that focuses solely on international medical insurance for expatriates. If you have a query regarding your current maternity cover, we can answer it. If you are considering starting a family and want options, we can provide them.

Maternity cover is a vital aspect of your pregnancy while overseas. Our impartial advice will assist you in making an informed decision on the cover that best suits your situation, needs and budget. We highlight the differences between insurer’s maternity plans and also point out the differences in their servicing abilities, responsiveness and claims pay-out timeframes. Our philosophy is, if we wouldn’t buy it for ourselves, we won’t recommend it. 

Contact us for a free, no obligation quote.

Group Cover v’s Individual Cover – Is one more beneficial than the other?

 

Many healthcare systems around the globe do not provide publicly-funded care and as such, medical treatment whilst residing abroad can cost thousands of dollars. An international medical insurance policy is designed to protect expatriates against significant, and sometimes financially crippling expenses. Having a suitable international medical insurance policy has become increasingly important as advances in medical technology result in increased costs of care globally.

Medical insurance plans not only provide financial security through covering the cost of medical care, but eliminate the risk of having to settle for low quality, substandard healthcare in an unfamiliar country.  Such plans ensure affordable access to care anywhere in the world in the event an illness or injury occurs. Some policies even include provisions for expatriates to be returned home at the cost of the insurer so that they can receive non-emergency treatment in their home country.  This is an attractive benefit if based somewhere remote and healthcare facilities are of a lower standard than those at home.

Cover can be provided either to stand-alone individuals or through a group policy.  So, in the battle between group and individual medical cover, is one better than the other?

Group Cover

About two thirds of expatriates globally are offered insurance by their employers or receive cover as part of a small group within an organisation. A group can consist of as few as 2 members through to hundreds of employees. In a group scheme, the insurer is basically spreading their risk across a number of individuals within the group, with some being younger, healthier and therefore low cost, while at the other end of the spectrum, the individuals might be older, already experiencing negative health effects and are high-cost.

Incentives are included in the majority of policies for larger groups, for example ‘MHD terms’ or ‘medical history disregarded’ is offered for groups of 10 or more staff which also in some cases, includes family members.  This means expatriates are able to join a medical insurance plan without a health assessment or having to divulge any medical history to the insurer.  Any medical conditions one might already have are automatically covered by the policy despite potentially exposing the insurer to greater risk.

This last point is particularly important for those who might already have experienced an adverse health event or developed a condition. Expatriates who already have a medical condition can face extremely high premiums on individual policies, so it will often make sense to join a group policy in order to avoid those higher costs.

From an employer’s prospective, arranging cover for staff safeguards the present and future health of employees, increasing wellness and decreasing downtime due to staff illness and injury.  It also positions the company as a good employer, aiding in creating a caring company culture. Group cover is often highlighted as an additional benefit within an employee’s remuneration package, with premiums usually paid by the employer.

Individual Cover

A major advantage of individual cover is the element of control that exists. Compared to company plans, which are tailored by the employer to meet its own needs and budget, an individual plan allows the expatriate to choose the insurer, the level of cover, the type of benefits they want and the amount of excess to be paid.

Likewise, individual cover provides flexibility and portability.  The policy can be taken anywhere in the world, for work or travel, and cover continues where there is a temporary return home.

Such policies are also guaranteed renewable, so the plan cannot be cancelled by anyone other than the individual, and ensures continuity of cover even when shifting from one employer to another, guaranteeing continued treatment and maintenance of any injury or illness. 

One of the most important benefits surrounds the development of medical conditions.  Where, for example a serious illness or injury occurs whilst on an individual policy, the cost of care and any complications that arise is fully covered whilst the policy exists, which is effectively until the expatriate chooses to cancel it. The policy cannot be cancelled by the insurer unless the premium goes unpaid.  The clear advantage is that individual cover does not end abruptly as it naturally would at the end of an employment relationship through a group policy, so where an expatriates changes employers, the cover goes with them.

Is One Better Than The Other?

There are trade-offs with both, so will largely depend on the expatriate’s situation. 

It’s important to remember, if an injury has occurred or the expatriate has developed an illness whilst on a group policy and decides to leave that employment, it can be difficult to get another insurer to cover those conditions.  This means any further costs associated with maintenance of the condition will likely have to be paid from one’s own pocket.  As a result, future employment opportunities might be restricted to those companies which provide medical insurance in their employment contracts.

It largely depends on the employer, but group policies can sometimes be watered-down to suit company budgets, resulting in a decreased level of cover compared to an individual policy. Group plans however ensure pre-existing medical conditions are automatically covered, whereas an individual policy requires medical history to be divulged to the insurer, which might result in additional underwriting or policy limits being applied. 

It is prudent to consider future goals and why you headed overseas in the first place.  Are you likely to stay with just the one employer? Either way, a group plan will only cover you as long as you stay with that employer.

Group plans are definitely a viable choice if the intention is to remain with a company long term. Unfortunately it is all too common that expatriates are forced to look for insurers to cover pre-existing conditions because their previous employer provided medical cover and the expatriate developed a condition whilst on the plan. Luckily there are some insurers that still consider covering a small number of conditions.

What’s The Solution?

Prior to accepting a contract with a new employer, check whether the level of cover the company health plan offers aligns with your own long term needs and goals.  A decision can then be made whether to join the plan or not.

At the very least, make certain that a medical evacuation benefit is included in a group policy and check the limitations and co-pay/excess amounts for medical treatment under the plan.

As an alternative to joining a company plan, request that the premium paid by the company on your behalf, be paid into your salary so that an individual plan can be arranged. This will allow you to take the insurance cover with you wherever you work or reside. It will also ensure you have continued maintenance of any illnesses or injuries when you move from one employer to another. 

Remember to keep long term goals in mind and consider the type of situations you might need cover for.  There are generally more limitations on group plans than there are on individual policies.

Buy a policy when you are healthy, as you’ll have many more options available to you. 

How We Help!

Navigating all the policy options offered by a large number of insurers can be hard, and finding cover that delivers exactly what you need on your own can be even harder.  It isn’t until an adverse medical event occurs that expatriates find a crucial element of their cover is missing.  Having an independent third-party like Global Albatross can mitigate those risks because we know the areas of cover, the depth of policies, the inclusions and exclusions, and we know the questions to ask.  We help ease the burden of relocating, living and working overseas.  And our service is free.

Global Albatross is a specialist advisory focusing on international medical insurance for expatriates.  If you have a query regarding your current policy, we can answer it.  If you are considering options, we can provide them.  If you want to change an individual or group policy, we provide the manpower to help achieve it.

Our expertise will assist you in finding cover that best suits your situation, needs and budget. We highlight the differences between insurer’s plans and also point out the differences in the insurers servicing abilities, responsiveness and claims pay-out timeframes.  Our mantra is, if we wouldn’t buy it for ourselves, we won’t recommend it.

‘Bring mum home’: Kiwi woman stuck in Malaysian hospital amid insurance stoush

http://www.stuff.co.nz/travel/travel-troubles/83385668/bring-mum-home-kiwi-woman-stuck-in-malaysian-hospital-amid-insurance-stoush

These situations become difficult for both the insurer and the insured.

Unless a pre-existing condition has been divulged in an application to an insurer prior to the travel commencing, it can be challenging getting claims paid.

It is vitally important to disclose any medical conditions to an insurer so they are fully aware of both past and current health status.  This will mitigate any risks of an insurer declining a claim due to complications associated with a pre-existing condition.  The approach that an insurer uses to assess an application will generally be of a holistic view to determine what other health events or symptoms could potentially arise in someone with a particular medical condition.  Such conversations are similar to those that naturally take place between a doctor and a patient, where the doctor might provide a diagnosis and advise the patient of the potential symptoms to look for as a prompt to gain further medical attention.

It is wise to alert an insurer to one’s health status upfront, as it allows insurers to assess risk and is the best opportunity for the traveller to have conditions covered before embarking on an overseas experience, particularly when there is an ongoing chronic condition involved.  Insurers have a team of medical advisers that highlight possible health complications in individuals that have medical conditions, so it is much more straight forward and less risky for the traveller to be clear on what the insurer might consider an exemption under the policy.  This protects the traveller from having to meet medical costs if the worst occurs, particularly as costs often run into the tens of thousands of dollars.  It will also save them untold time and stress.

If on the other hand a pre-existing condition is disclosed on an application and the insurer does not exclude the condition, the cost of any medical care in relation to that condition and any complications that might arise, are covered and the insurer is duty-bound to pay.

Consulting an experienced adviser can help with navigating this area, fraught with pitfalls.