Reimbursement of costs for healthcare abroad

Reimbursement of costs for healthcare abroad

13 March 2024 Insurance

Cover image source: Image de Drazen Zigic sur Freepik

If you live in another country as an expat or are simply on holiday, it is always possible that you will fall ill or something unforeseen will happen, and you will need to make use of the country’s healthcare system. This is particularly the case if you are in a country with lower hygiene or safety standards, or if you are on a sporting holiday. If you then go to a doctor or make use of other healthcare services, you may incur unexpected costs.

Depending on the country, these fees can sometimes be higher, which raises the question of whether you can get the costs reimbursed by your health insurance in your home country. The simple answer to this is yes, it is quite possible. However, it very much depends on which country you come from, what type of insurance you have and even in which country you have taken out healthcare.

In the following article, we would like to have a closer look at how such a claim for the reimbursement of medical costs by your healthcare provider is possible. We will explain what you should bear in mind when taking out health insurance, what options you have to request reimbursement from your insurance company, and finally, we would like to give you some further advice on the subject.

Familiarise yourself with your health insurance

To be sure that you are covered in the event of an accident or illness abroad, you need to familiarise yourself with the terms and benefits of your health insurance. Before you travel abroad as an expat or go on holiday, take some time to really understand your insurance. Generally, international insurance policies will cover emergency care such as hospitalisation and outpatient clinics.

However, for regular treatment at the doctor for minor accidents or illnesses, there are often various conditions that need to be considered. For these services, you should be prepared to pay out of your own pocket. You can then submit any bills incurred to the health insurance company. Depending on your contract with the insurance company, you may then be reimbursed part or all of the amount.

So to ensure that your health insurance covers such treatment costs during your travel, you can take some precautions:

  • Find out about the healthcare system in your destination country – you should not only be aware of the regulations in your country. Before you set off on your trip, you should also find out about the healthcare system and the conditions for reimbursement of costs in the country you are travelling to.
  • Consider your predisposition and needs – Do you have a chronic illness, are you allergic to something or have other health needs? Then you should do research specifically about these things, and not just about the destination country, but especially about your own healthcare benefits in relation to these things.
  • Speak to a representative if necessary – If the whole thing seems a little too complicated, if you don’t know exactly what to research or if you have any other questions, you can, of course, speak to a representative of your health insurance company. Health insurance companies usually have good customer service for issues such as emergency care during travel, as they know that the coverage and reimbursement of healthcare costs abroad can be a tricky subject.

An example of a country with good international healthcare cover is Cyprus’ healthcare system. If you take out health insurance with a reputable or well-known provider, it is often the case that international insurance for healthcare costs in Cyprus is included or can be added on. Such health insurance typically allows you to access not only emergency care in Cyprus, but also care such as doctor’s visits and prescription medication.

Reimbursement for already paid costs

Imagine you are on holiday in a foreign country. Before you set off on your holiday, you contacted your health insurance company, such as Medicare in the United States, which typically doesn’t cover international expenses, and arranged international health insurance. Now you have actually fallen ill while on holiday and have visited a doctor. Despite your insurance coverage, you had to pay for the treatment out of your own pocket. Now you wonder: Would it be possible to get a refund of the costs you have already paid?

The answer to this question is yes, it is quite possible. Although it depends on the health insurance company itself and the contract you have taken out, in most cases there are no problems in obtaining at least a partial reimbursement of the costs. To accomplish this, you should make sure that you ask for and keep all invoices and relevant documents when you visit the doctor. These are important so that your health insurance company can determine the nature of the illness and assess the healthcare services you have utilised.

Your healthcare provider will look at all these documents, check their validity, and also try to communicate with the doctor or hospital you claim to have been to during your trip. This also means for European travelers who have been on holiday in a country like Malta, which is also in the EU, the health insurance company can easily contact the healthcare provider and evaluate any cost. Read more about health insurance plans while traveling within the EU here.

To summarise, here are the steps you should follow to get the highest possible refund:

  1. While still at home, find out whether your health insurance company offers international insurance and what the coverage of costs is like in the country you are travelling to.
  1. If you receive healthcare in a foreign country and have to pay for it out of your own pocket, keep a record of all interactions with the doctors. Always ask for bills and other documents that show and prove what you needed and why.
  1. As soon as you are healthy again or have returned to your home country, submit an application for reimbursement to your health insurance company. You will need to fill in a form with all the important information and then file it. Attach any important documents you have collected before you apply for it.
  1. Then you have to wait. The health insurance company will look at your claim and will hopefully reimburse some or all of the costs within a few days or weeks.

Advice and tips on health abroad

To conclude our article, we would like to offer you some unusual advice when it comes to using healthcare in another country. Firstly, let’s have a look at the Philippines’ healthcare system. The Philippines, unlike some other countries, has particularly cheap public healthcare. That’s why it’s a popular country for so-called health tourism.

This means that many people choose to travel to the Philippines to take advantage of various healthcare services that would be much pricier in their home country. Another reason for medical tourism in the Philippines is the so-called PhilHealth programme. This is a national health insurance programme that is mainly used by residents, but expats can also qualify for it under certain conditions.

Contrast this with countries like Dubai’s healthcare system, which are not exactly known for cheap healthcare. However, some of the best doctors and hospitals in the world are located in Dubai and the country has a strong health insurance network. So if you are interested in seeking surgery or a specific medical treatment but are not satisfied with the services offered in your home country, you can look at countries like Dubai or the Philippines.

Foyer Global Health offers comprehensive and affordable expat health insurance to all expats, digital nomads and employees moving abroad. To know more about our products and receive a personnalised quote, click below or contact our experts:

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