Health insurance is something that concerns all of us, regardless of age, status or how healthy we are. In this article I explain my own strategy and review the most popular insurers for location independent individuals.
To buy or not to buy
Health insurance is one of the most controversial topics within the location independent community. There are three camps: the well-insured, the ones with dodgy policies and those who aren’t insured at all. The well-insured argue that the cost of health insurance is outweighed by peace of mind and a reduced risk of ruin. The ones with dodgy policies (credit card policies, high-deductible policies, unstable insurance companies etc.) argue that all they need is a basic policy and that they are better off self-insuring the difference. The uninsured argue that health insurance is an unnecessary expense for someone who is healthy and that the pay-as-you-go model is the way to go.
I myself belong to the well-insured camp. My logic is that the 200$US or so that I spend every month on my premiums is insignificant when compared with paying out of pocket for a large hospital bill. It also buys me peace of mind and makes the process of acquiring new residencies easier. I always recommend going this route but at the end of the day, it really is up to you to decide in which camp you belong.
When I was living in Canada, I was covered by a multi-trip annual policy. It covered me for up to 60 days every time I left Canada regardless of the destination. For less than one hundred dollars per year, it was a no-brainer.
When I became location independent, I bought an all-inclusive policy with Allianz Worldwide Care. The cost was around 110$US monthly and the policy included pretty much everything except for outpatient visits and dental care. A few years in I got a great deal with Integra Global for their PremierLife plan and decided to switch. Now I’m paying around 210$US monthly and it includes everything (inpatient, outpatient, dental care, eye care, alternative medicine, life insurance, disability insurance and medical transport). I’m very happy with this policy and with Integra Global. They even have an app that lets you submit claims directly on your phone, monitor your medical file (updated every year at the checkup), talk with their “best outcome” team in the US and more.
True health insurance
Integra Global offers some of the best policies out there. Their approach is to bundle everything in so you do not have to worry about the extras such as dental care. This makes them more expensive than the basic plans offered by their competitors but when you factor in the extras, they are very competitive. I absolutely recommend them especially if you care about direct billing agreements and coverage in Asia.
Cigna Health Insurance
Cigna is one of the world’s largest insurance companies with over 60 million members. They offer access to over 900000 hospitals and clinics, many of which are in their direct billing network. Cigna’s reputation concerning claim payments is good and their prices are usually quite competitive. They are an especially good choice for American citizens.
Allianz Worldwide Care
Allianz is one of the world’s top insurance companies as well as one of the most solvent. Their biggest advantage is ease of use. If you fall sick, all you need to do is open a claim using their app (Android and iOS) and go to the nearest hospital in their “direct billing network”. They will contact the hospital right away pay them directly so that you do not need to pay anything out of pocket. This is a huge advantage considering how expensive hospital bills can be. They offer the usual in-patient policies but also offer out-patient policies for routine checkups and preventive care.
Bupa is one of the largest expat-focused insurer with over 200000 members. It’s reputation tends to be good however there has been some controversy over refused claims and unexplained increase in premiums in recent years. Their network is extensive especially in Asia and Europe. Cost-wise, Bupa tends to be at the top end of the price range.
This is the insurer I recommend to those on a budget. Because the limits on their policies are lower and because of a higher deductible (1000$US), they are able to offer coverage at a ridiculously low price (in my case they quoted around 30$/month for global coverage). Of course the product isn’t as good as the one offered by the likes of Allianz but it does cover all the basics and is way better than no coverage at all.
World Nomads is a famous insurer but their reputation is far from stellar. Their prices also tend to be rather high for the coverage offered. A big advantage is that you can buy a policy during a trip (with most insurer, you need to buy the policy before your departure). They seem to cover almost everything but if you read the fine prints, you’ll find a lot of conditions and exclusions. They do offer tons of extras that aren’t common with most insurers such as coverage for manual work, counseling after an assault or mugging, coverage of travel expenses if you need to attend a pre-booked concert or event etc.
Allianz Travel Insurance
As mentioned above, Allianz is one of the world’s top insurance companies and one of the most solvent. Their travel insurance product covers all the basics including trip cancellation, lost baggage etc. Claims are processed quickly but it is important to note that unlike the WorldWide Care product, direct billing isn’t always possible with the Travel Insurance product.
While I would not recommend using their money-exchange service, Travelex offers very decent travel insurance plans. They cover all the basics although their limits tend to be lower than those of World Nomads and Allianz Travel Insurance. This means that their plans are very cheap, perfect for cheaper destinations (Thailand for example) or for travelers who already have some coverage (EU citizens traveling within the EU for example).