Healthcare insurance is a very personal matter. No two people are alike in their needs or in what can be afforded. Insurance companies put together plans or policies according to what they feel clients will find most attractive at various premiums. Clearly the higher the premium the greater will be the risks covered. Of course it is not just as simple as that sounds.
The freedom of action that insurance companies have with regard to policy content or cover will vary from country to country. The premiums may also be controlled by legislation. The relationship between healthcare insurance companies and healthcare providers also varies and may be subject to government control. No two countries adopt the same attitude towards the provision of healthcare for their citizens. There are also many side issues, which for some sections of society may not be minor, such as religion, abortion, homosexuality and ethnicity that can affect the insurance offered and for whom it may be proposed. In short people, healthcare insurance companies and countries vary so much that only general guidelines can be given with respect to this issue.
There are some well known restrictions, which although they may vary in detail are important in choosing healthcare insurance. Age is a vital factor. Most companies will not offer new policies to applicants who are over 63 years of age. Those holding policies will often find that certain treatments or cover for specific conditions taper off after the age of 70 years. Usually the kinds of conditions which are more likely to be encountered with advancing age cease to be risks covered as the years progress. This may seem unfair but to the insurance company it is a matter of simple economics.
Many companies will not cover pre-existing conditions. The argument is that a policy is intended to protect against risks. If a client already has a given condition then suffering from it is no longer a risk, it is a matter of fact. In general insurance companies do not protect against unavoidable or known factors. The major exception to this is life insurance but this is a very different matter. On applying for healthcare insurance it will usually be necessary to complete a questionnaire specifying all relevant facts. Pre-existing conditions, if not obvious, could be hidden by the applicant. The relationship between an insurance company and the client is one of "uberrimae fidei"or utmost good faith. If this principle is avoided by either party then the insurance will be invalid. A claim may be avoided or denied even if an undeclared condition was not known at the time of purchasing the policy. Such matters may be and have been the basis for protracted legal battles. Those seeking insurance should be aware that most companies have very deep pockets when it comes to legal cases.
Often a healthcare insurance company will provide cover only if treatment is undertaken at an approved establishment (clinic or hospital) and by named healthcare professionals. This may be because the company approves of the treatments offered for particular conditions. The company may also make it known to medical personnel on its "approved list" that it agrees to certain drugs from particular suppliers being prescribed. It is also possible that the healthcare professional may make it known to patients that only settlement via a particular insurer is acceptable. Some see these practices as interference in medical matters by non-medical people or organizations. It is a fair comment and one that the new insurance arrangements recently introduced in the U.S.A. (Obama Care) has tried to address.
Sometimes health insurance companies will not extend cover abroad. It may be possible to obtain a short term travel insurance but there is usually an extra premium. For a retiree who intends to live abroad companies with this restriction need to be avoided. The trade off is that with no overseas cover premiums may be lower. There are reasons why a policy from such a company may be useful. This is considered in the next section. It is important that retirees subject any insurance company from which a policy is being sought to at least as stringent a series of questions as the company requires from the applicant. Only in this way can it be ascertained that all personal needs will be met.
Many countries consider the provision of healthcare to its citizens a matter of national duty. For some the service provided is also a cause for pride in the quality of care made available. Although it is frequently maligned the British National Health Service was proudly introduced by a labour government shortly after the Second World War. It was introduced as a free service and the minister responsible for its inauguration, Aneurin Bevan, fought hard to keep it that way although he had to concede co-payments for some services. In Britain today the principle of "treat first and charge after" still remains extant.
This contrasts with the U.S.A. where treatment depends on proof of the ability to pay. The recently introduced "Obama Care" reforms have tended to mitigate this and, to be fair, there are many local authority schemes that provide healthcare at sub-economic rates to the less well off. Universal healthcare in one form or another exists in many ex-British territories such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Many third world countries also provide basic healthcare to their citizens. The only restriction is cost. Many smaller nations can provide a good standard of healthcare because the "cost push" factors of insurance companies, tied doctors and large drug companies do not exist.
Many retirees find that the local health services in smaller countries are adequate for their needs and cost far less than similar services in their countries of origin. Access to these services has frequently extended from services to citizens to include care to permanent residents. The standard of health care is often maintained because of the increasing popularity of "medical tourism". This is especially so in Asia. The Philippines provides a permanent resident visa to those with declared health conditions. There are conditions attaching to the visa but it does speak highly for the regard that the country has for its medical services.
In accepting the local services as a "primary carer" it is possible to take up a policy with a company that does not "export" its policies. Such cover would be for more serious conditions that a person may prefer to have treated in the original "home" country. Often this is because a better standard of aftercare is available. Care at home in Third World countries may be of a lesser quality than would be ideal. This may be simply because of the normally adequate but lower standard of living possible with respect to say diet and preferred drug availability.
In accepting local healthcare it may also be possible to accept a larger than normal "excess" or "deductible" and so lower the premiums. A mixture of local and insured access to healthcare is normal for many retirees living abroad. There are hundreds of health insurance companies and access to them is as close as the nearest machine with Google availability. As always it is a case of "caveat emptor". Buying healthcare insurance should not be based on any kind of doubt. Adroit questioning is vital. If the companies are the dark villains then one should adopt the prompting of Dylan Thomas -"Do not go gentle into that dark night". The link below may help you choose your best option.
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