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Should I choose a local or international health insurance plan?

While many Latin American countries have decent healthcare, a major concern for expats is their well-being in what is ultimately an unfamiliar environment. Therefore, being in possession of a good health insurance plan can go a long way in bringing peace of mind. In fact, some countries like Ecuador even make health insurance mandatory for visitors.

So, where do you begin in your search for health insurance as an expat? One of the first choices you’ll be confronted with is whether to go for a local or international plan. It’s not always straightforward, so this Pacific Prime Latin America article will go through the differences between the two and help you decide what’s right for you.

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Local vs International health insurance:

Geographical coverage

A local insurance plan will only cover you in your country of residence, while an international plan covers you globally. However, it’s worth noting that the latter typically excludes coverage in the US due to the country’s exceptionally high costs of healthcare. Of course, you can always tailor plans to your exact requirement but keep in mind that it’ll cost you more.

Hospital network and choice

For added convenience, local insurance plans tend to include a network of hospitals that can directly bill your insurance provider. You won’t be expected to pay upfront for treatments and claim reimbursement, but may find yourself without much freedom to choose hospitals. Conversely, international health insurance plans give you this freedom. You may also be able to find plans that do have direct billing networks.

Renewing policy

Don’t take the fact that you can renew your health insurance plans for granted. Local health insurance providers may stop you from renewing your policy if you’ve claimed a lot in the previous year or have reached a certain age. International health insurance, on the other hand, allows for lifetime renewals. Regardless of how much your claims have been or how old you are, you won’t be left without coverage when you need it most.

Cost of plans

While local health insurance plans tend to be cheaper, premiums can increase significantly over time because of how they’re calculated. Local health insurance is experience-based, which means that the premiums depend on how much you’ve claimed in the previous year. In contrast, international health insurance is pool-rated so premiums are calculated using data on those in your age bracket and medical inflation.

Things to consider when choosing:

Healthcare in your country of residence

Going abroad for healthcare will require an international health insurance plan. Whether or not you’ll need this option will depend on the level of healthcare in your country of residence. Even within Latin America, the quality of healthcare can vary depending on where you’re located. For example, Costa Rica has one of the most efficient health systems in the world, while Venezuela faces a healthcare crisis.

Settled status in the country of residence

Expats settled in one country may find a local health insurance plan to be adequate. But for those planning to jet set around the world, this would mean having to take on a new plan in each country. What you may find is that any illness you’ve developed could be treated as a pre-existing condition and not included in your new plan. On the contrary, international global insurance is globally portable.

Travel plans

If you plan to travel abroad extensively, then international health insurance works best. Alternatively, you could go for local health insurance plus travel insurance whenever you need it. There are limitations with this option though. Unlike international health insurance that provides comprehensive care overseas, travel insurance may simply focus on bringing you back home to avoid expensive healthcare charges abroad.

Your priorities

Those who might not want to shell out the extra money may settle for a local health insurance plan instead. But if you can afford to pay more and want hassle-free access to the best healthcare, wherever you are, then perhaps you should consider going with an international health insurance plan. They tend to be more lenient with covered benefits when compared to local health insurance plans.

Contact Pacific Prime for more information

Health insurance can really be a minefield to navigate, but thankfully there are experts that can help. Pacific Prime has two decades of experience in the insurance industry and can guide you on Latin American insurance plans.

Our easy-to-use online tool allows you to compare insurance costs. Alternatively, if you’d rather speak to a knowledgeable advisor in the Pacific Prime Latin American office, contact us today for an obligation-free quote.

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Senior Content Creator at Pacific Prime Latin America
Suphanida is a Senior Content Creator at Pacific Prime, an award-winning global health insurance and employee benefits specialist.

With over 5 years of experience in the field, Suphanida spends the majority of her day synthesizing complex pieces of insurance-related information and translating this into easy-to-understand, engaging, and effective content across a variety of media such as articles, infographics, whitepapers, videos, and more.

Suphanida is also responsible for planning and publishing three whitepapers released annually by Pacific Prime: The State of Health Insurance Report, The Cost of Health Insurance Report, and The Global Employee Benefits Trends Report. Additionally, she handles the LinkedIn profiles of Pacific Prime’s Founder and CEO, as well as Global HR Lead.

Suphanida’s strengths lie in her strong research and analytical skills, which she has gained from her BA in Politics from the University of Warwick and Erasmus Mundus Joint MA in Journalism from Aarhus University and City, University of London.

Being of Thai-Indian origin and having lived, studied, and worked in Thailand, the UK, and Denmark, Suphanida also has a unique, multicultural perspective that helps her understand the struggles of expats and globetrotters.

Outside of work, she enjoys traveling to new places and immersing herself in different cultures.
Suphanida Thakral