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Going under cover

Wednesday January 31, 2007

Sam Barrett

Taking out insurance to cover the cost of your healthcare while you are living abroad is sensible, especially as few countries offer free treatment. But, given the restrictions on what is covered, you can still find yourself picking up bills for treatment.

?The problem is that a lot of the international policies are based on the UK model,? says Andrew Apps, an international director at Goodhealth Worldwide. ?In the UK there?s the NHS to fall back on, but you won?t have this safety net if you?re living abroad.?

Having a UK-style policy will mean significant gaps in cover: for instance, it may not cover you for free appointments with a GP. You can expect to pay anything from $5 in Africa for a doctor?s appointment to $100 or more in the US or Hong Kong.

However, Tim Baker, business development director at Norwich Union Healthcare, says: ?Primary care isn?t particularly expensive in many countries, so you may be happy to pick up the tab yourself.?

Dental treatment will not be picked up automatically by your insurance. Most policies will include cover for accident-related dental work, but a six-monthly check-up will often be your financial responsibility. Paula Covey, development director at Bupa International (which includes routine dental cover on its corporate schemes but not its individual ones), says: ?We exclude it to keep premiums affordable. We?d love to cover everything, but you?d end up with a policy that no one could afford.?

Having a baby outside the UK can also land you with a hefty bill. ?A routine maternity package in Hong Kong could set you back between $5,000 and $8,000, and that?s for a fairly standard package without any complications,? says Apps.

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