Discussion Topics

9 International Educators Share their Hospital Visit Experiences from Around the World

March 18, 2020


One time in Bangkok, I was walking around the streets by myself in the heat of the summer. By accident, I tripped and fell down on the sidewalk. After I got myself up, something felt extremely wrong. I walked around for a bit, but I didn’t know what was wrong and I started to panic.

I found a taxi and decided to have him take me to my hotel. At first, the driver said a price for the taxi ride. I would have paid whatever, but I immediately started crying. The taxi driver immediately lowered the price (I originally got the tourist price I guess) and became very worried for me.

I got to the hotel, but then immediately realized that I needed to get to the hospital ASAP. I got into another taxi and arrived at a local hospital in Bangkok. When I first got in, they helped me immediately (remember I’m still on my own and don’t know how to speak Thai). The nurses put me on a gurney, and then started to proceed opening my backpack. I got stressed about that and was getting confused. I found out later that they were putting my valuable things into a safe place. How nice! But the nurses didn’t speak English, so there wasn’t a way of knowing what was going on when it was happening.

I was seen quite quickly by a doctor or maybe even two doctors. The problem was that I had a dislocated shoulder (first time it happened to me). They put it back in its place. And even though I was drugged a bit, I had to be on my way. I sincerely thanked them all I hope, but years later I had thought to send a thank you note to that hospital for such a kind and helpful experience there.

After searching the keyword ‘hospital‘ using our Comments Search function on our website (premium access required), we found 210 comments. Here are 9 of them that give some insight into the hospital experience in different countries around the world.

Vilnius International School (23 total comments)

“They are just now implementing a level of international health insurance so will have more information about that later. The current uses the local system which is all in Lithuanian so can make it difficult to get seen as you have to go to an assigned doctor (who speaks little English) and to an assigned hospital. It is very difficult without knowing Lithuanian.”

Lycee Francais de Shanghai (30 total comments)

“Health insurance is great and comprehensive. You’ll be provided with a list of fully covered hospitals and dentists and those that are co-pay. The hospitals are great. I’ve not had any bad experiences.
When I had a dental emergency I paid up front and was able to claim it all back.”

Escuela Bella Vista Maracaibo (59 total comments)

“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.”

Graded – The American School of Sao Paulo (64 total comments)

“Albert Einstein Israelite hospital is considered one of the best in South America and is located in the same neighborhood as the school.”

Renaissance International School Saigon (52 total comments)

“Health insurance works ok. Most hospitals for foreigners have a direct billing accord with the insurance. More hospitals are getting built at the moment and there a few very decent expat hospitals but they are also money making machines. Local hospitals are ok but can be a very different experience.”

American International School Dhaka (94 total comments)

“Insurance is great. That said, most go to Bangkok or Singapore for yearly check ups and anything requiring a knife. Used a local hospital for PT and found it very ineffective. Okay for stitches or advice on passing a kidney stone. Super cheap MRI and X-rays. AISD has a on-site clinic that most use for colds, flu, dengue, vaccinations, etc.”

Roong Aroon School – International Programme (18 total comments)

“Local hospitals [in Bangkok] vary – government hospitals usually have good doctors working off their government college loans; private hospitals are quite flash and many have decent reputations. International hospitals can be quite pricey, and while their reputation may sound great they can sometimes not provide the same value for service as the private and government hospitals.”

North Jakarta Intercultural School (101 total comments)

“School covers AETNA insurance. It is worldwide coverage EXCLUDING the USA. Local hospital is conveniently located near school. HR and Operations is very helpful to support new employees on any medical issues, even accompanying to the hospital if needed to support translation. You can generally find hospital staff who speak fluent English. Signage is bilingual. All health providers are located under the roof of the “hospital“”

Osaka International School

“We currently have international insurance through Clements. I’ve been very happy with them. When my child was in the hospital, all that was required from me was a quick call and then they negotiated the payment with the hospital‘s accounting office. Doctor’s fees are quite reasonable in Japan, so for most charges, I pay cash and then have the reimbursements put through to my USA bank account. I am able to make my claims through an app on my phone and it is wonderful and quick. Reimbursements usually come within 2 weeks or so.”

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Comment Topic Highlight

Using Health Insurance While Teaching Abroad: Delightful or Nightmare?

January 19, 2020


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

What has been your experience using the health insurance benefits at your international school? Please login to our website and share what you know!

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Highlighted Articles

How to stay safe and well when teaching overseas

June 7, 2019


Mitesh Patel discusses the steps teachers can take to look after their mental and physical health when working in a new country.

Securing a new teaching position abroad can be tremendously exciting, particularly if you’ve triumphed through a frustrating and long-winded application process. It can be so exciting that it’s easy to forget that travelling abroad and living abroad are two very different things. Whereas when you’re on holiday it’s all about fun and relaxation, moving overseas means you need to be mindful of the more mundane practicalities of everyday life.

In fact, feeling at home in your new country is often the deciding factor in the success of a new assignment. You’ll find that a little planning goes a long way in staying mentally and physically safe and well when you teach abroad. Here are some simple tips to get you off to the best possible start:

  1. Make sure you are well informed pre-departure. There are always surprises (good and bad) when you move to a new country. It could be that shopping for groceries is a totally different experience to the one you are used to or that you are used to a lenient teaching style whereas now students are expected to abide by strict rules. Prepare yourself as much as possible by devouring expat guides, and reaching out to staff in similar situations – it can really help you settle in.
  • Find out about health care. Prioritising your health care needs are fundamental, from finding a local doctor to understanding what would happen to you in case of an environmental or medical emergency. Remember, health care often starts before you leave – for example, in Vietnam, foreign staff are required to have vaccinations before they apply for a visa. It’s always worth checking with your school to see if they can help guide you or organise whatever is necessary.
  • Build a support network. When you live a long way away from friends and family, it’s easy to start feeling lonely. Keeping in contact with existing links is important, if not always straightforward – for example, social media isn’t an appropriate avenue in China and Skype can be contentious in the UAE. Again, it’s worth knowing this before you go so that you aren’t left disappointed. Also check with your new school to see if they offer alternative routes if you’re feeling blue. And while it’s always comforting to be able to communicate in your native tongue, remember too the joy of learning a new language. You’ll find that throwing yourself into new activities and customs will ensure you quickly integrate into your adopted community.

Mitesh Patel is the medical director at Aetna International. For more information, please contact emea_marketing@aetna.com or visit www.aetnainternational.com

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Highlighted Articles

Looking After Teachers, However Far They Go

May 1, 2019


Knowing that you have extra support in staying happy and healthy can play a key role in successfully settling into life as an expat teacher, says Mitesh Patel.

Career development, a completely new culture, better work-life balance – there are lots of factors that make teaching overseas a very attractive proposition. Good health care packages also play a part in tempting new talent to international schools as well as making sure staff stay safe and well once they’re there. After all, it can be stressful enough moving home to an area you know well, let alone to a country you may never have visited before.

Recently, there has been a noticeable shift in how international schools are turning their attention to supporting teachers’ mental and physical wellbeing in new and better ways. Finding a school that prioritises this can considerably improve your ‘settling in’ process. It’s also a sign of a school that places an emphasis on a happy and healthy learning environment, as anything that negatively impacts teachers can also negatively influence student wellbeing and progress.

When you move abroad, it’s of paramount importance to know where to turn when things don’t go to plan with your health. Getting food poisoning, for example, is never much fun but if you don’t know where to get help it can become downright scary. Unfortunately, there might also be occasions when you are faced with an emergency, such as discovering that the shortness of breath you’ve been suffering from whilst teaching in Baku is actually a symptom of something much more serious. Should this happen, knowing that every effort would be made to keep you in a familiar place with the support of your friends can be tremendously reassuring at an otherwise traumatic time.

In fact, when you are a long way from home, feeling cut off from your loved ones can really take its toll on mental and emotional health. For example, one of our member schools in China told us that their expat staff were finding life very difficult. Many were at the start of their careers, didn’t speak the local language and had moved abroad for the first time. Unfortunately, feelings of stress and isolation had begun to spread.

We quickly set up a dedicated crisis line for staff, giving them direct access to expert support with whom they could chat in their native language. We also helped the school to promote the line internally, to ensure teachers felt comfortable making that all-important call. It meant a negative spiral was nipped in the bud, and the new recruits could relax and enjoy their time.

It goes to show that it’s always possible to intervene and ensure your experience abroad is a roaring success. Remember, the first port of call is to check with your new school and see what resources and support they offer to help you look after your health and wellbeing.

Mitesh Patel is medical director at Aetna International. For more information, please contact emea_marketing@aetna.com or visit www.aetnainternational.com .

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