Health Insurance for Expats in Cambodia and beyond: A Checklist (Magazine Article)

For most brokers in Cambodia, inquiries about health insurance outnumber queries related to pensions, savings and real estate.  Most expats understand the importance of protecting themselves and their family whilst they live overseas.  Fortunately, health insurance is one of the products in the market which is easiest to understand and grasp, but nevertheless there are a few basic points that consumers should consider:

Budget and level of cover:  Before anything else, consumers should consider what they actually need in terms of protection.  Those with unlimited budgets are in a minority, and most dental procedures and non-emergency health-care procedures are very cheap in Cambodia and in most parts of South East Asia.  For those in this situation, it makes perfect sense to get standard basic coverage that covers emergency procedures that can be both life threatening and extremely expensive.  It is also sensible for those with some cash in the bank to opt for some co-pay options to limit the premium.

For those with specific life plans, a more comprehensive plan might be needed. A good example is if you are planning to have a child, as the costs associated with child birth are usually not covered by basic plans. This is becoming particularly important because many countries have changed the rules in respect of expatriates claiming health care costs related to `non-emergency` procedures, with the UK National Health Service now charging non-resident citizens for such procedures.

Regulation:  This is arguably the most important, and sometimes, the most overlooked aspect of the equation.  One common worry, and indeed misconception, that many have is that it is usually difficult to claim .  An important factor to consider in the case of insurance is the country in which the insurance firm is regulated from.  Insurance companies ran from well-regulated environments such as the European Union, Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong are restricted in terms of the practices they can adopt.  In such instances, most of the issues with claiming are related to self-harm or failing to declare information on the application form.  It is perfectly normal for insurance firms from such locations to adapt policies to make compliance easier and to reassure the consumer about the convenient of claiming.

Direct Billing:   One example of such a policy is for the insurer and the hospital to settle the bills directly, and thereby making the process of claiming unnecessary.

No health questionnaire and covering pre-existing consitions:  In the past, insurance firms have found excuses not to pay out for legitimate reasons such as lying on application forms.  However, and controversially, some insurers have failed to pay out due to more grey areas, such as the consumer failed to declare everything, perhaps because they can’t remember their whole medical history.  In response to this, and for administration efficiency, some insurers from well-regulated domains have abolished the questionnaire and cover pre-existing conditions after a specific number of months.  AXA Hong Kong would be the best example of such policies that I have seen.

Automatic renewal:  If you get cancer in two months, and the insurer doesn’t have to accept your application next year, they will probably cut off the funding after 10 months, if they are under no legal obligation to do so.

Evacuation:  Phnom Penh still doesn’t have hospitals on a par with Bangkok, Singapore or Hong Kong.  An airlift into one of those aforementioned cities is often needed for some specific procedures.

As the above information shows, there are a few things for any adviser and consumer to consider. The biggest thing to consider, is whether you are protected in the first place. For that, no check list is required.

The article above was originally printed in B2B Cambodia.

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