Getting good health care is important, especially while living in a foreign country. You get used to the health insurance plan and coverage so much growing up in your home country that sometimes you can’t even think of another way to have it.
Living in the United States my whole life, I thought that it was normal to pay deductibles and co-payments. I even had heard that teachers working at US schools get one of the best health insurance plans (when compared to other professions), so I was quite content. And true to my experience and now looking back on it, I was pleased with many aspects of my coverage.
But living abroad had afforded me different experiences, from socialized medicine to full-coverage private insurance plans. And I would say that both of those experiences had their pros and cons and some aspects were better or a bit worse than my experience living in the United States.
Regardless of the plan that I have living abroad, it is definitely nice to not have to pay out of pocket expenses for my health insurance. So plans that pay everything for you up front are the best ones in my opinion. I also have appreciated having health insurance that has world coverage as we international school teachers do like the travel a lot and of course go back to our home country once or twice a year.
The issue of waiting time often comes up. All health insurance coverages include some time waiting to get seen and for getting an appointment, especially with a specialist doctor, etc. It is true that some insurance plans get you those appointments faster. I know that in some European countries the wait for a specialist doctor can take many weeks, but one way to get around this is to pay a little bit from your pay check for a private insurance. With this, you can get your appointments assigned to you much faster!
Paying for your prescriptions can be a pain on your wallet as well depending on which coverage you have. With one private insurance plan I had in Asia, I didn’t have pay any out of pocket money for all prescriptions. That was amazing! I can imagine though that in many insurance plans, you are expected to pay at least something for your prescriptions.
On ISC we have a comment topic related to this topic in the Benefits Information section on the school profile pages. It is called: “Health insurance and medical benefits. Describe your experiences using these benefits and going to the local hospitals.” There have been 992 comments submitted in this comment topic on 100s of international schools from around the world. Here are just a few of them:
“Medical insurance is through a Chinese company. This is not ideal for several reasons: We live in Viet nam not China, and the package, compared to other countries, is basic. Very basic by international school standards, expect a lot of out of pocket, paying in advance, claiming back which takes a long time as language barrier (Mandarin speakers might do well), and submitting forms makes it a deterrent to claim back or even try.” – International School of Vietnam
“Everyone receives medical card on arrival. This gives you access to local hospital services. In our experiences this is fine for woman bit not for men.
Once you receive your company private insurance you pay QAR 50 for your initial consultation and then the rest s free form there. On larger more emergency cases you sometimes have to pay a deposit until the approval is given from the insurance which can take a few hours. This has never been an issue and always resolved in the teachers favour. Private care is very clean, as is local care. Health care for women in Qatar is very good.” – The English Modern School (Doha)
“The Health Insurance is not very good. It used to be through a reputable international provider and is now through a sub-standard Chinese company. The cover is global (non-US) but is not 100% and is only available at selected providers. If you are in an emergency situation and do not go to a pre-authorised hospital, it won’t be covered.” – The British International School of Kuala Lumpur
“The insurance is quite good in Maracaibo and in the USA. The doctors are trained, but hospitals are not equipped to serve patients right now. The price for medical care has increased by 10 fold in one year. It is a terrible situation for Venezuelans and foreigners who get sick.” – Escuela Bella Vista Maracaibo
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Topic: How is your experience using your health insurance and medical benefits?
It is not fun worrying about your health when you live abroad, as medical systems can vary from country to country in their efficiency, price and quality.
Some cities have only local hospitals on offer; meaning ones that are staffed by locals and that serve mostly locals. It is not uncommon for these hospitals to have a staff with poor English or any foreign language fluency. It might be necessary for you to find, or in a best case scenario – for your school to provide someone who can accompany you at the hospital to serve as an interpreter. The quality of these hospitals isn’t necessarily poor, as one may suggest, but not knowing the local culture of “how things work” in a local hospital can indeed be quite nerve-wracking.
Other locations have more expat-oriented medical facilities and/or special-health insurance plans for foreigners. These types of hospitals can put expats at ease in how they are served. They have foreign-hired doctors on hand that can speak their language. Expat-oriented hospitals typically also have all the different types of medicine and prescriptions that you may need while living abroad. In less developed areas (ones that have lower employment desirability), you are in luck if you have access to these types of expat-oriented medical facilities.
It is all fine and dandy to have super accessible and well-resourced hospitals in your host country, but let’s not forget out the health insurance benefits package that you are receiving through your school. It is clear that your medical insurance coverage can vary from school to school in their efficiency, price and quality as well. In one international school, they give you amazing health coverage with everything covered (including health insurance for you around the world), no co-payments, with most dental needs included. In the next school, you find yourself very limited to what you can do with your benefits. A less desirable health insurance package might not include dental or cover you during your travels around the world or back in your home country.
Your health insurance benefits package should always be talked about and maybe even negotiated with your international school before you sign the contract.
Because things are so different for each of us at international schools across the world, take a moment to go to the homepage of International School Community and submit your vote today!
If you are interested, you can check out the latest voting results here.
We actually have a comment topic related this to this issue. It is called: Health insurance and medical benefits. Describe your experiences using these benefits and going to the local hospitals.
Right now there are over 598 individual comments (about 100s of different international schools) in this comment topic on our website. Here are a few of them:
“The insurance is pretty good. At hospitals that accept it, you pay approximately $13 U.S. for the visit, treatments and prescriptions. The difficulty is not with the insurance, but the hit and miss quality of care available in town.” – Liwa International School (Dubai, United Arab Emirates) – 23 Comments
“You can get travelers and accident insurance from your bank here, like at Nordea. It is really cheap and it gives you health insurance coverage anywhere in the world! It is important to know about this option because now the Danish CPR health social health care card doesn’t cover you anymore in Europe, well for non-Danish people with a CPR card.” – Copenhagen International School (Copenhagen, Denmark) – 244 Comments
“Macau offers free health care coverage to all residents and all who hold work permits. This kicks in after about 3 months of living in Macau. The school helps facilitate private insurance until the government insurance starts up.” – The School of the Nations (Macao, China) – 20 Comments
“Health insurance is not the best. It only covers emergencies and specialist doctors, not a General Practitioner. I have been to the doctor here, and it was a good experience. Doctors were efficient and I got taken care of pretty quickly. I would advise asking people who have lived here a while, who to go to though.” – The Codrington School (Int’l School of Barbados) (St. John, Barbados) – 70 Commentscontinue reading