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Your step-by-step guide to getting the best expat health insurance plan

Health insurance policies are never one-size-fits-all and life circumstances have a habit of changing. The Local spoke to an expert from leading insurance broker ASN to help you get the best value bespoke insurance policy.

Your step-by-step guide to getting the best expat health insurance plan
Photo credit: Natasha Fedorova

Many factors affect whether your current health insurance plan is still right for you. Moving to a new country, for example, could mean that your policy is no longer compliant. Even things that seem insignificant, like joining a football team, may require you to renegotiate your coverage. 

We spoke to ASN’s Françoise Villoz to make sure you know the basics before taking out or renewing your health insurance policy.

Step 1: Take stock of yourself

Before negotiating your new policy, take note of any changes in your recent health status along with any other factors that might impact your insurance profile. These factors not only include illness or injuries but whether you’ve taken up a risky new hobby like bungee jumping or if you travel regularly to dangerous regions for work. Furthermore, if you have a medical condition for which you have been paying an extra fee as part of your insurance you might be able to get your health loading or medical exclusion dropped.

Click here to get a bespoke health insurance policy

“If you have recovered fully from a serious skiing accident that happened ten years ago and have not required any treatment since recovering, then your insurance company might be willing to take the loading out of your contract,” advises Françoise.

Photo: Deposit photos

It might go without saying, but before you get into the thick of the negotiation process, it is a useful exercise to ask yourself whether you are satisfied with your current provider. Delayed or partial (or too administratively complicated) reimbursement of claims, for example, might be reasons for you to consider looking for a new insurance provider partner. Similarly, if your premium has increased year on year, you may want to shop around.

Step 2: Research your options thoroughly

If you are satisfied with your current insurance provider (or don’t have time to trawl through all the other insurance providers out there), then the best way to renew your current plan is to call your current provider. If there’s been no change in your circumstances in the past year, then the renewal should be straightforward. However, if your current insurance provider doesn’t – or won’t – live up to your expectations, (or you simply want to find a better insurance provider for your specific situation), then you will need to do a little digging.

Click here to get a bespoke health insurance policy

Françoise points out that insurance companies usually have specialist areas and coverage expertise, and while your provider can usually not refuse you a renewal, it might not be able to update your insurance to cater to your new circumstances. For this reason, a rule of thumb in the research process is to first check whether a company offers comprehensive and favourable coverage for all of your needs in each area of your life. If not, then it’s time to jump ship.

“If you have taken up a sport such as football or tennis you need to make sure when you do your research that your chosen insurance provider covers not only sports in general but your sport in particular,” warns Françoise.

Lastly, even if you are a picture of health and your life circumstances have stayed roughly the same, if you have moved to a new country, you must acquaint yourself with the rules and regulations of your new home. If you don’t, you might find out the hard way that your insurance is not compliant, and that you need to get an additional local insurance.

Photo: Deposit photos

Step 3: Before you ring

Before you pick up the phone to start negotiating your new policy, there are a few things to be mindful of. No new provider will insure you if you’re pregnant (if you are, there is normally a ten- to twelve-month waiting period). Likewise, if you have cancer, you seldom have an option but to stay with your current insurance provider. Secondly, if you have a new medical condition, make sure to have all the details on the table in front of you, and be prepared to negotiate hard if you are looking to upgrade your policy. Before you begin browsing for a new insurance provider, be prepared that your options may be limited in certain countries – including the U.S. – and that, if you have relocated, your current provider might not have coverage in your new country of residence.

Click here to get a bespoke insurance policy

If your medical condition is severe – or if you have been refused an upgrade by both your current and prospective health insurance providers – you might want to consider consulting an insurance broker such as ASN International Insurance. Since brokers usually have strong partnerships with many of the major providers, in certain cases, this can mean the difference between getting a better bespoke policy or not.

“We have a big portfolio with many clients as well as strategic partnerships with many of the key insurance companies,” says Françoise. “Since it is in their best interest to maintain good relations with us, insurance companies are often more cooperative when clients with serious conditions are represented by one of ASN’s experts.”

Finally…

When you receive your insurance proposals, make sure to carefully read both the general conditions (do double-check the cancellation terms!) and the small print of your contract. No-one’s trying to pull the wool over your eyes but you always need to be cautious when changing providers.

“Even if you have found a new insurance provider and you are sure they will take you on, you should never cancel your current contract before you have received final confirmation that your new provider will cover you as per the agreement,” says Françoise.

If you’re short on time but want a bespoke health insurance policy at the best price, consider getting in touch with an insurance broker like Françoise at ASN International Insurance. ASN does all the heavy lifting for you and will send your custom-built top three policy offers within two weeks.

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by ASN.

For members

HEALTH

The essential Swiss websites you need to use for health matters

If you just moved to Switzerland (or even if you have lived here for a while), your learning curve about health-related matters in the country may be steep. These sites will help you find the information you need.

The essential Swiss websites you need to use for health matters

Staying healthy is probably one of your top priorities, but doing so in a foreign country is not easy.

That is why having some reliable resources that you can check out and follow will be helpful.

First: The Local

No, we are not doctors, but we have published a number of factual articles over the years about many aspects of healthcare in Switzerland that our readers find helpful.

You can find a compilation of these health-related stories here

Federal Office of Public Health 

Obviously, when it comes to matters of health, the Health Ministry has lots of information that will be relevant to you at one time or another.

Aside from matters of health policy (which is important for all residents of Switzerland), the site also has a regularly updated Infectious Diseases Dashboard to let you know what communicable illnesses are currently circulating in Switzerland — and how to avoid them.

It also provides age-specific health information and recommendations — for instance, for children and teenagers, as well as for the elderly.

Hospital websites

Individual hospitals in your area are good sources of information as well, and many of them are in English.

You can find there general health information, care and treatment options, online emergency room signup, new medical technologies being used, and other patient resources:

Geneva University Hospitals (HUG)

Vaud University Hospital (CHUV)

Zurich University Hospital

Basel University Hospital 

If you live in an area without a university medical centre, your local hospital is also a valuable source of health-related information.

Appointment booking platform

This website is especially useful for people who don’t yet have a doctor in Switzerland but need to set an appointment with one. 

It gives you an option of choosing a specialty and location, and then displays doctor’s names and addresses, background information about them, and which time slots they have available.

You can easily set up an appointment this way.

Your health insurer’s website

This may not be an intuitive choice for impartial information about healthcare but you may be surprised.

For instance, Sanitas insurance site has information about emergency care decisions, and how to void unnecessary medical treatments.

CSS has health information geared specifically to men and women.

Helsana talks about ways to combat stress and sleep problems.

These are just a few examples on what valuable tips you can find on your insurer’s website.

Websites devoted to specific medical conditions

If you seek information about a specific illness — such as treatment options in Switzerland — there are plenty of online resources for that as well.

For instance:

Heart and cardiovascular 

Diabetes 

Osteoporosis 

Mental illness 

General pain 

Other diseases 

Last but not least, while not related to health, these websites will also provide useful information for international residents:

The Swiss websites that can help you save money
 
The most useful website resources to help you get Swiss citizenship 
 
 

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