Global health insurance & local health insurance, which one suits me best?

31 Mar 2022

Why is it important to have health insurance coverage?

Health insurance provides financial protection in case you need medical treatment due to accident or illness.

A health insurance is an essential requirement in today's fast-paced lifestyle. Lifestyle diseases are on the rise, especially among people under the age of 45. Illnesses like diabetes, obesity, respiratory problems, and heart disease, all of which are prevalent among the older generation, are now rampant in younger people too. Some contributing factors that could lead to these diseases include a sedentary lifestyle, stress, pollution, unhealthy eating habits, gadget addiction and general undisciplined lifestyle choices. 

Protecting yourself and your loved ones from any eventuality that could leave you financially handicapped is a must. Ensuring you get the best medical treatment, should anything happen to you, is something you would not have to stress about if you have a suitable health cover.

While an unforeseen illness can lead to mental anguish and stress, there is another side to dealing with health conditions that can leave you drained – the hospital bills. By having a suitable health insurance policy, you can better manage your medical expenditure without dipping into your savings. In fact, some insurance providers offer cashless treatment, so you don't have to worry about reimbursements either.

Your savings can be used for their intended purposes, such as buying a home, your child's education, and retirement.

If you already have health insurance (for example, a policy provided by your employer) check exactly what it protects you against and how much coverage it offers. Chances are it will provide the minimal basic coverage.

Should you choose a local or global health insurance plan?

Your decision on what kind of insurance plan is best for you will be heavily dependent upon your personal circumstances, your medical condition, the quality of the local healthcare system and hospitals, whether you're settled in your country of residence for the long run, and whether you travel frequently among other matters.

In general, expats living abroad may not have access to the full range of benefits a public healthcare system offers, so you will have to take out some kind of private medical insurance policy to cover the costs of healthcare.

Premiums for local health insurance plans are typically lower than global health insurance.

Why buy a global health insurance plan?

A health insurance policy with overseas cover may be a little heavy on your pockets but you certainly cannot deny its benefits. Especially when you are planning on relocating to other countries, you need to consider if you are able to take your health insurance with you.

If you're an expat who frequently globetrots due to the nature of your job, or if you plan to move back to your home country at some point in the future, the one thing you will want to bear in mind is how you will be covered when you relocate. If you're on a local plan, you will have to subsequently take out a new plan once you've moved. This can pose an issue if you've developed a medical condition or suffered a serious illness, as the insurer in your new home may treat it as a pre-existing condition and exclude it from coverage.

Most international health insurance plans are globally portable, so you can take them with you when you move. This means that there are no breaks in your insurance coverage and there is no need to undergo the underwriting process again which means you're not in danger of having pre-existing conditions excluded from coverage under your new plan.

Can you keep renewing your health insurance plan?

Many private health plans are offered on a yearly renewable basis and may have a cap on the age you can continue to renew your policy up to, usually around the age of 70. Since a large majority of people tend to develop more medical conditions as they grow older, being prevented from renewing your insurance can present a serious problem when you're going to be needing it most.

Worldwide health insurance plans are what is known as guaranteed lifetime renewable, so you will always be able to renew your plan for as long as you need it, regardless of how old you are or how much you have claimed.

By paying a relatively affordable health insurance premium each year, you can beat the burden of medical inflation while opting for quality treatment, without worrying about how much it will cost you.

Do you need international cover?

Do you need coverage outside of where you're living? This could be an important factor for expatriates, or those who travel frequently for business or personal vacations. Local plans will only provide you coverage in that particular country, while an international plan will typically offer coverage either worldwide, or worldwide excluding the US (although these plans will usually provide 30 days of cover for emergencies even outside your area of cover).

If you are a discerning patient who only wants the finest quality treatment and expert care when the need arises, then an international plan will be able to cover what a local plan cannot.

If you are on a local medical plan, you can always take out travel insurance to cover any emergencies. However, it is important to note that in some cases where serious medical treatment is needed, a travel plan may entail repatriation to your country of residence, after which the travel insurance company will no longer have to cover your treatment in your home country.

On the other hand, international health insurance plans will include coverage for any emergency medical evacuation and assistance, which includes evacuating you to a place where you can receive quality medical care, medical referrals, second opinions, tele-medicine consultations and more.

Who are the leading global health providers?

There are few providers who have achieved the Five Star ratings distinction – a sign of service excellence: April International, AXA Global Healthcare, Bupa Global, Cigna Global, UnitedHealthcare International and Now Health International.

The Health & Protection publication conducted a market survey in 2021 and received responses from more than 200 international brokers who were asked to score providers in 7 categories:

  • Appreciating and developing business
  • Claims handling
  • Compliance support
  • Ease of use of adviser-facing technology
  • Quote and application support
  • Speed of response
  • Staff expertise and problem-solving

Source: Health & Protection Service Rating 2021

In closing, rapid advancements in medical treatments, rising medical inflation, access to good healthcare facilities and hospitalisation costs can be financially strenuous. Hence, ensuring good health insurance cover for yourself and your family can provide the added protection you need in times like these and more importantly, keep you focused on your number one priority – the road to recovery.

Want to learn more?

Now that you are up to speed on the various aspects of international health insurance coverage and are considering whether to take up your first plan, speak to a Manulife Financial Advisers (Manulife FA) representative who will be able to assess your medical and lifestyle needs and take the guesswork out of the process. A well-tailored plan will give you the peace of mind so you can feel confident knowing you are adequately covered no matter where you are. 


The author is a self-employed representative of Manulife Financial Advisers Pte Ltd. Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent official policy or position of Manulife Financial Advisers Pte Ltd.


Christina Kokadir

Relationship Director, Financial Services

Manulife Financial Advisers Pte Ltd

Christina Kokadir specialises in Global Health insurance, working with niche affluent families and has more than 20 years of experience in holistic financial planning advisory services. 

She is a Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) recipient.

She writes regular articles to her clients in English & Bahasa Indonesia, in 3 pillars of comprehensive financial planning – Risk Management, Wealth Accumulation, Wealth Preservation & Distribution. 

Her clientele mostly are affluent Indonesian families and executives. They prefer Christina for her in-depth knowledge, cultural understanding, and her extensive network.

Christina speaks fluent English and Bahasa Indonesia.