So, you’ve decided to relocate to a foreign country, whether temporarily as a digital nomad, or permanently as an expat. If you haven’t yet settled on a destination, you should be aware that many more countries beyond the 27 members of the Schengen Zone are requiring proof of health insurance for entry, including specific types of coverage like Covid-19.
Once you’ve pinpointed your desired destination, that country may require you to purchase a policy from its government. Otherwise, you have the latitude to select a policy from any private insurer that can offer the required coverage.
Even if your targeted destination doesn’t require proof of health insurance, you should consider it a high-priority purchase because of the potentially devastating impact a lack of insurance can have on your financial situation and your peace of mind.
Potential for Bias in Reviews
It’s important to know that reviews of health insurance policies on blogs or YouTube might be influenced by compensation that content creators may receive if visitors click on links to the sites of featured policies and subsequently purchase a plan from one of those companies. These compensation agreements are called affiliate relationships.
If the website or video is governed by U.S. regulations, it should comply with the Federal Trade Commission’s rules that require visitors to be informed of affiliate relationships. And a key requirement is that the content creator should disclose any compensation arrangements in a clear and conspicuous manner, as explained here: Ensuring that Your FTC Disclosures are Clear and Conspicuous
Unfortunately, many content creators don’t comply with this requirement. You may find affiliate disclosures, but they may appear at the end of a blog post or after you click “Show more” in the text beneath a video. Even if you can’t find any disclosures, it’s no guarantee that the content creator has no affiliate relationships.
Of course, the fact that a content creator is compensated for a review doesn’t mean that the policy wouldn’t be a suitable choice for you. However, it’s important to be aware of this practice because it can inject bias into the review process.
Insurance Broker vs. Insurance Carrier
If you visit the website or watch a video of a health insurance broker—as opposed to an insurance carrier—the broker would be authorized by multiple insurance carriers to place policies with them. Based on the coverage you desire, you should expect a broker to recommend the optimal product to address your needs. However, some insurers pay brokers a bonus—on top of a commission—for placing a volume of business above a threshold amount in any year or other specified period. To learn about possible bias that may apply to a broker’s recommendation, you might ask the broker to provide the names of any insurers with which she or he has such an arrangement.
More Health Insurance Information Sources
Fortunately, even though some reviews of health insurance plans may be influenced by the financial relationships we’ve discussed, there are other avenues you can pursue to obtain unbiased information about them, including:
AM Best, founded in 1899, provides opinions about the financial strength of hundreds of insurance carriers worldwide. Although it charges a fee for detailed reports, you can obtain some useful information about insurers offering plans that interest you at no cost.
Enter the name of an insurer in the Rating Services section. You may learn that AM Best does not rate the insurer. However, if it does, the country where the insurer is domiciled will be displayed.
If it isn’t domiciled in the United States, click on “Country Risk Reports” to learn AM Best’s opinion of the country’s political, economic, and financial system risks, which will be expressed by a number ranging from 1 to 5, with 1 being the most favorable risk assessment—which the United States has. You could then review AM Best’s Guide to Country Risk Tiers to learn how it formulates its opinion of a risk level.
If an insurer you’ve specified is rated and domiciled in the U.S., the state will be displayed. You could then use this information in the next step in your due diligence process, as follows.
State Health Insurance Commissions
Once you know the state where an insurer is domiciled, visit the state’s insurance commission section to access any reports regarding policyholders’ complaints filed against health insurers. As you review the data, keep in mind that although a company may have had many complaints, you should consider two factors: the percentage of claims relative to the total premiums the insurer wrote during the period; the number of complaints deemed valid by the insurance commission.
You’ve probably already read many health insurance plan reviews on multiple sites. However, some policyholders may post a negative opinion of their experience with an insurer on multiple sites. The complaint data in a state health insurance commission’s report would be a more reliable source since it would record an individual policyholder’s complaint only once.
Health Insurance Attorney
Hopefully, your due diligence has enabled you to whittle down your list of potential insurance plans to only one or two. Even if you read the policies’ fine print and feel confident that you understand the benefits and exclusions of each plan, consider engaging an attorney with expertise in health care insurance matters—especially cases entailing the denial of claims. Naturally, you should expect to be charged for the attorney’s advice, but it may be a worthwhile investment since it can bolster your confidence in your choice—or motivate you to select another plan. To find a qualified attorney, visit martindale.com. Then review Martindale’s rating methodology, which can guide you in selecting an attorney in your state who specializes in health care insurance.
We hope these suggestions can move you closer toward choosing the optimal digital nomad or expat health insurance plan. And we wish you all the best as you embark on this next and potentially rewarding chapter in your life.
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