Expat Health Insurance: How much can you expect to pay?

ExpatRoute is here to help you understand expat health insurance and the best deals for expat health insurance fees.

Peace of mind is important for any expats living abroad. Whether you are looking to retire, continue your career or planning to embark on a life-changing trip, investing in health insurance is one way of protecting yourself. Big moves can often result in plenty of concerns so investing in expat health insurance can mean one less thing to worry about on your journey to enjoying a greater quality of life.

Many expats living in global hubs such as Hong Kong or Tokyo often complain of how life abroad is more expensive than originally anticipated. There are often unforeseen costs, many related to health and medicine, which may only become a reality once you are living in a new country. Taking out health insurance for expats is an effective way of pre-empting these issues and potentially reducing your unexpected outgoings.

What is expat health insurance

Expat health insurance is an insurance product used to protect an individual with cover for any medical expenses or care when living abroad.

It is likely that a new country will have a very different health system to the one set up in your home. This means any previous policies will not offer you any cover when living your new life as an expat.

Even if your previous plan did provide some cover, this may only have been for a limited time and will not secure you in case of something unexpected happening. Impromptu private medical care can be very expensive so it can be kinder to your bank balance to arrange insurance ahead of a big move.

Why do I need expat health insurance

As already mentioned, the financial implications of not having expat health insurance in place can be huge with unexpected injuries or illnesses leading to big bills. If you are looking to reside in another country on a long-term basis, then your domestic policy will not provide sufficient cover or protection.

Some destinations will require proof of medical insurance before granting a visa or work permit to any expats looking to set up a new home.

Travel insurance and expat health insurance are also different insurance products and confusing the two could mean you are travelling without any cover in place.

Medical cover as part of travel insurance is usually only aimed at supporting you during emergencies and getting you back home for treatment. Expat insurance will provide cover for routine care including:

  • hospital stays
  • routine check-ups or physicals
  • cover for pre-existing medical conditions
  • cover for ongoing chronic conditions
  • access to a network of providers and medical experts

How much does expat health insurance cost

The cost of your expat health insurance policy will depend on a number of differing factors.

Your location

The country you have moved to will have great influence on the cost of your expat health insurance. Typically, the US and Hong Kong are the most expensive locations while some countries such as Spain and Norway are cheaper. This is to do with a range of factors including regulation, how many private companies administer medical care and access to financial support from the central government. As a general rule of thumb, the more expensive the healthcare in a given country, the more expats should expect to pay in premiums. Some countries have high inflation trends or larger costs around the supply of medicines and this will also impact your annual premiums.

Your medical needs

The amount of coverage and accompanying cost of your expat health insurance will be influenced by how much medical support you will need. Some factors to consider are whether you require:

  • emergency cover
  • outpatient treatment
  • dental cover
  • maternity cover
  • optical cover

If you are planning on or considering having a family while you’re living as an expat, then this should also be factored into the level of cover you invest in with your health insurance too. Without it, having a baby can be very expensive, particularly in the United States where only 12 weeks unpaid leave is available.

It’s always sensible to be as transparent as possible when taking out health insurance. If you neglect to mention any pre-existing conditions or other parts of your medical history, then you may be in danger of invalidating your cover and potentially exposing yourself to additional costs.

Your policy limits

It is worth ensuring your policy has the appropriate limits in place so that you can guarantee you are properly covered if the worst happens. Expats living abroad need to make sure their policy covers them in case they need particular treatments or ongoing care. This can avoid unexpected costs in case of cover running out mid-procedure.

Choosing to accept lower limits on the size of the maximum claim you can make can reduce your payment while still ensuring you are able to take advantage of top healthcare.

Who is covered by your policy

If you are moving to a new country on your own or with your family, then it is sensible to ensure your expat health insurance covers everyone.

A family policy means all of your nearest and dearest can access the best medical care when required. Again, this takes away the stress of worrying about any unexpected costs.

Payment method

Certain methods of payment for your expat health insurance can influence the cost of a premium.

Some insurance providers will add charges when policies are paid quarterly or monthly. The most cost-effective way of paying is usually by debit card or bank transfer and making one annual payment.

How to reduce your insurance premiums

You should always review the coverage you have in place to see if you can make any savings. If you have any additions to your policy which go unused, then consider removing them from your insurance schedule.

Choosing your insurance from larger companies can also reduce any fluctuations in your premiums. They are usually more stable and less susceptible to market fluctuations, as they have been operating for a longer period.


The last 12 months has been full of unprecedented uncertainty as the world battles to take control of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During 2020, there was obviously increased pressure on hospitals and emergency care services with a drop in routine procedures. This latter trend was driven by many choosing to avoid visiting a doctor or hospital wherever possible.

Utilising online technology has become an increasingly preferred way for patients to access medical support. There is still some uncertainty over how demand will be for health services in 2021 but with the increased global roll-out of a vaccine, an uptake in health services is likely, which could make access to medical care more challenging in the future.

Next steps

Choosing the best expat health insurance can be tough, particularly when looking to find the most suitable policy for the best price. However, the ExpatRoute team is here to guide you through!

For tailored information for your circumstances, contact a financial adviser today.

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