Friday, December 13, 2013

EXPAT HEALTH INSURANCE FOR AMERICANS - PART 1

Cathey and I knew from the beginning that health insurance would be a cause for concern as we prepared to move to France. The quality of care is not the question. European healthcare outcomes lead the world. We've had personal experience and we were impressed. But in order to qualify for a long-stay visa, the first step to obtaining the permanent carte de sejour we will have to present proof at the French embassy in Washington that, among other things, we will not be a burden to the French healthcare system for the entire length of our stay unless and until we qualify for that system.

Medicare benefits do not extend beyond America's shores. We will have to buy private insurance.

The French are relatively clear about the requirements. You need proof to their specifications that you are covered for medical, evacuation and repatriation expenses to the tune of $40,000. You can read more in the health insurance section on the French consular website HERE. The article even names several companies which will provide the required proof. It all seems rather straightforward until you remember that the French are masters of bureaucracy. And Cathey and I are both 65 years old, the age at which rates for new enrollments can be crushing if available at all. Although we're in reasonable health, there will be visits to doctors. We take prescription medications - cholesterol maintenance and such.

This is serious stuff. I began my investigations.

First, I searched the companies listed on the consular website. Then, I clicked on advertisements on expat message boards, on the websites of French real estate agencies, and on travel blogs. Finally, I began to search - on three different engines - a variety of phrases: expat health insurance, expat medical insurance, health insurance France, medical insurance France, international health insurance, international medical insurance, travel health insurance, travel medical insurance...  

Instead of recounting the boring details of my landings on sites of all sorts, I'll summarize.

There appear to be two tiers of insurance coverages available. The top tier policies are similar to a decent American full-coverage policy with the addition of the evacuation and repatriation riders. You can add vision and routine dental for a price. Higher deductibles lower the premium. Pre-existing condition? Read the fine print and hope for the best. I've been quoted between $8,000 and $12,000 for the two of us for a calendar year. Too much for us. One major international agency quoted $16,000 annually with no deductible, $8,500 annually with an $8,500 deductible. I don't care if the coverage included haircuts, manicures, pedicures and high colonics on demand. Too much for us.

The second tier is where the action is. Both sliding deductibles and/or sliding lifetime limits affect premiums. While the top tier policies offer limits in the millions of dollars, second tier policy lifetime limits can be low as $50,000 or higher than a million. The deductible may be per incident rather than cumulative or there may be no deductible at all. Purchasing the policy sufficiently ahead of your departure date may buy you coverage for the relapse of a controlled pre-existing condition. Rental car insurance can be a throw-in. Read the fine print and hope for the best. We've been quoted as low as $3,200 for the two of us for a calendar year for the no-frills, basic coverage that we hope is all that we'll nee

I've narrowed the field down to three companies through my internet research, two from the French consular site and one that caught my eye as I was investigated them. I will not detail the intricacies of their policies, each to the other. I am not their agent. See for yourselves.

Travelex Travel Plus
FrontierMEDEX TravMed Choice
Seven Corners Reside Worldwide

PLEASE DON'T TAKE THIS AS AN ENDORSEMENT OF THE THREE INDIVIDUALLY OR AS A GROUP. We have made no purchases. There may be other horses in the race yet to be considered. But I'm making calls and I'll be making up my mind soon. And I'll be keeping in mind that it's the Christmas travel season and there's a good-sized storm brewing. Let's see who has the staff necessary to keep the phones answered.

When I make up my mind, I'll post again.









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