Is the growing trend towards mandatory expat private health insurance all it seems?

Is the growing trend towards mandatory expat private health insurance all it seems?

Is the growing trend towards mandatory expat private health insurance all it seems?

Not a day goes by but yet another expat destination rules that all arrivals for whatever purpose including tourism must have private health insurance.

The 21st century seems to be setting itself up as the century of expatriation, as there are now some 66 million expats and the figure is expected to hit 87 million by 2020. People leave their country of birth for many reasons, from bettering their careers, earning more money, retirement to the temptation of seeing the world whilst working online. Not everyone who leaves is wealthy, with many retirees on meagre state pensions moving overseas to cheaper, warmer lands after struggling to get by in their home countries.
For this last category, compulsory private health insurance could result in the end of the retirement dream.

Especially for older expatriates, good healthcare at affordable prices is considered essential, but not all overseas medical services are adequate and the vast majority of expats are confined to expensive private hospitals charging them far more than they charge locals. Whilst healthcare for expat professionals on reassignment is invariably covered by their employers’ private healthcare plans, a huge number of expats are unable to afford such coverage, especially if they’re retirees without a huge stash of disposable cash in the bank. As with so much else nowadays, it’s all about the money, with investors in both the fast-growing number of so-called upscale private hospitals and the insurers themselves raking it in.

Of the vast number of expats now living outside their home countries, a large percentage are digital nomads earning just enough to keep themselves on the road they want to travel, with little left over to line the pockets of those investing in private healthcare. Even worse off are retirees on state pensions without fat pension pots and with pre-existing conditions, and those over a certain age are defined as uninsurable, however healthy they may be. In this case, ‘uninsurable’ is a cover for the increased likelihood of having to make a claim some time in the far distant future. Insurers like nothing better than to charge excessive premiums to those unlikely to make a claim until they’re actually dying.

The ever-growing numbers of insurers aiming at the expat market are doing so for only one reason – their own balance sheets, with immigration officials across the world more than happy to join in by making visas dependent on the purchase of compulsory, overpriced and often unnecessary private health insurance. What they don’t realise is that the move may well result in curbing the freedom of movement of hundreds of thousands of would-be expats who simply can’t afford the premiums although they could well afford an emergency stay in a public hospital. Killing the expatriate goose which is laying the golden eggs may well be the result.

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