Want to move to the UK? Have no idea of the various insurance options or health plans there? Check out in this article everything you need to know in case of medical emergencies in your new country!
It is natural that several concerns surround our mind when the topic is going to another country. We need to have a place to stay, look for a job, understand how the country’s culture works, buy tickets, learn a new language…
It’s normal for people to forget that worrying about health insurance is just as important as everything else. After all, it is about your health.
With an enormous quality of life, incredible culture, public transport that works well and outstanding tourist attractions, the UK is a place that many expats consider when deciding on their new country! And it’s not for less, right?
Therefore, in addition to talking about good alternatives for international health insurance for expatriates in the United Kingdom, we will also comment on how the health system works there, the differences between travel insurance and insurance for expatriates, which among the various coverages you may need and other information such as the types of visas required to live there.
How does the health system work in UK?
As much as it is often treated as a single country, the United Kingdom is a union between four nations: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Because of this, we will talk individually about the health system of each of these countries, as they can change a little between each other.
1. England: Created by the Minister of Health in 1948, Aneurin Bevan, the English health system is the National Health Service (or NHS).
This health system is public and free, financed mainly by taxes.
In the country’s neighborhoods, there are several reference health posts, called General Practitioner (GP). To get medical attention, just go to the GP closest to your home and present a document together with proof of residence.
The NHS network is made up of public hospitals and clinic networks. If the patient needs 24-hour care, it is possible to call the support number 111 in case of non-emergency.
Although the entire system is funded by taxes, some things have fees, such as expenses for prescription drugs or dental care, for example.
It is a UK government service, but in other countries medical treatments may change.
2. Northern Ireland: The public health system in Northern Ireland is Health and Social Care (HSC), as the NHS is called in the country.
Living in Northern Ireland, you and your family already gain access to this free public system, which may incur extra charges for certain medical conditions. Which doesn’t mean you don’t need to take out a health plan to keep you safe during your stay in the country.
If you need health care, you should look for a health center in your community, where you will be attended by a General Practitioner (or general practitioner, in Portuguese). Treatments include medical counseling, physical exams, diagnoses, prescriptions, vaccinations, simple surgical procedures, and more.
This type of service is free for everyone who registers by filling out a registration form. If necessary, the doctor will refer you to a specialist.
3. Wales: In Wales, the healthcare system is extremely similar to that of England, considering that the NHS is a system for the whole of the United Kingdom, with some changes from country to country.
4. Scotland: Here, the public health service is NHS Scotland. It has 70 years of creation and some differences from NHS England.
Being free, some charge may be made for non-emergency treatments only.
Furthermore, the differences for NHS England are more in the form of care and not structural.
Do expats need health insurance in UK?
Yea! As much as the public health system in the United Kingdom is good and functional, everyone who is going to spend more than 90 days in the United Kingdom, regardless of the reasons, must present, when applying for a visa, proof of taking out insurance of health.
So, in case you intend to move to UK. I recommend that you insure yourself with one of the companies listed below 🙂
Bureaucracies can be annoying at times, but with a contracted international health plan you are much more relaxed. Even more so considering that you will be in a completely different country, with laws, culture and sometimes even a language different from yours.
That is why, having international health coverage will make you much safer for any situation that you are not expecting or emergencies. In addition to security, international plans have other benefits, which I will mention below.
As an immigrant in UK, should I get an international health insurance plan like the ones recommended in the list below? Or should I get a national plan?
The choice may vary depending on your individual medical needs and the cover you may need during your stay in the UK.
It is a fact that international health plans must meet all of their UK coverage requirements. If you choose one of them, don’t forget to check at the government embassy what the minimum insurance requirements are for staying in the country.
Having never lived in the UK I can’t recommend or speak about the national plans that are available.
With that in mind, here are some of the reasons why you might prefer international health insurance over public coverage or national plans:
- Most likely international health insurance will have cheaper monthly fees than national ones;
- You can choose how long your plan lasts;
- In international health insurance, you can cancel or extend it whenever you want;
- International insurance offers coverage in other countries, not just in a single one (which is why they are considered “international”).
Who do these international health insurance policies cover?
All international health insurance companies listed just below are for citizens living in UK as workers, immigrants, expatriates or students from the following home countries:
- European Union (Portugal, France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Poland, Belgium, Sweden)
- New Zealand
- In addition to citizens of other countries
In addition to working for expatriates/immigrants residing in UK, these companies also provide services for residents living in:
- Europe (European Union and United Kingdom);
- And any other country in the world!
As they are international plans, they can be used by people of any nationality and anywhere in the world, as they have worldwide coverage!
Why can’t I get travel insurance when I move to UK? What is the difference between travel insurance and expatriate insurance?
Travel insurance is a necessity on any trip as it not only covers medical emergencies but general issues on your trip such as lost luggage.
It is necessary to emphasize that travel insurance is not the best for expatriates and immigrants, because although it is possible to request a longer travel insurance, it is still only made for those who want a temporary stay in the country and not for those who intend to stay longer. long term, i.e. for tourists.
Furthermore, travel insurance does not usually meet the requirements required by law to be a UK resident.
In the end, it will be necessary to choose a health insurance plan that specifically covers expats. This is where the list below will help you.
What are the 7 best health insurances for expatriates and immigrants in UK?
Finding the right health plan can be a headache. For this reason, we have prepared a comparison table of the best companies. That way, you’ll be able to see the pros and cons of each one faster, in addition to deciding the best one for you!
After the table, there are more detailed descriptions of each company, with their benefits, plans and more!
In addition to all that has been said, the best advice I can give you is: get a quote from each company before making your final decision. It may take a little longer, but in the end you’ll save a lot of money!
|Medical Maximum||Unlimited (for the Platinum plan)||$8,000,000||The site doesn’t specify||Unlimited||US$1,000,000 per year||The site doesn’t specify||$1,000,000|
|U.S. In-Network Coinsurance||You choose. From 70%(100% thereafter) to 100%||100%||No||60% for maximum coinsurance and then 100%||Yes, for higher fees||Only in emergencies||Yes|
|U.S. Out-of-Network Coinsurance||You choose. From 70%(100% thereafter) to 100%||90% to $5,000 (100% thereafter)||Yes, for higher fees||100%||100%||100%||100%|
|Mental Health Availability||No waiting period||12-month waiting period||Co-payment of $25 per visit, waived deductible||75% up to 40 visits / 60% after that||No||Waiting period of 10 months||Depends on the plan|
|Mental Health Benefit||Inpatient and Outpatient: $5,000 lifetime maximum to paid in full depending on the plan||Inpatient and Outpatient: $50,000 lifetime maximum||Co-payment of $250 after deductible||100% up to 60 days||International and ambulance: limit not specified|
|Inpatient Prescription Drugs||$500 to paid in full depending on the plan||Up to $8,000,000||Yes||Complete reimbursement||Yes||Yes|
|Outpatient Prescription Drugs||None, unless you buy the International Outpatient Option||Up to $8,000,000||Complete reimbursement||Yes||Yes|
|Evacuation and Repatriation of Remains||Paid in full||Up to $8,000,000||Yes||Up to $25,000||No||Up to 10,000 euros||Yes|
|Accidental Death & Dismemberment||Depends on the plan||Rider available, limit depends on age.||$50,000||Depends on the plan|
|Emergency Dental||Paid in full||Up to $8,000,000||Optional||1,000 per year, $ 200 per tooth||Yes, however you need to pay an extra fee on top of your plan||Depending on the plan, it’s unlimited||It has coverage in the Diplomat Long Term and Diplomat International plans|
|Treatment Necessary as Result of Terrorism||Up to the amount of the coverage||Rider available up to $50,000-lifetime maximum||Clause available up to maximum of $50,000 in lifetime payments|
|Amateur Sports||Unlimited||Rider available up to $10,000||No||Yes||No||No||No|
|Routine Nursery Care of a Newborn Child of a Covered Pregnancy||$25,000 to $156,000 depending on the plan||$1,000 additional deductible, $50,000 lifetime maximum, $200 wellness benefit for first 12 months||Yes||Depends on the plan||Can be unlimited depending on the plan||Can be unlimited depending on the plan|
|Children born as a result of fertility treatment (such as IVF or surrogacy)||Only after the baby is 90 days old||Excluded||Depends on the plan||Excluded||No|
|Neonatal Intensive Care Unit||Check website for updated information||$250,000 maximum for first 31 days||No||Up to $250,000 for the first 31 days||No|
|Pre-existing condition exclusion period||Conditions that are fully disclosed on the application and have not been excluded or restricted by a rider will be covered as any illness||Conditions that are fully disclosed on the application and have not been excluded or restricted by a rider will be covered as any illness||Conditions that are fully disclosed on the application and have not been excluded or restricted by a rider will be covered as any illness|
|Pre-existing condition look back period||Any time prior to effective date||Any time prior to effective date||Any time prior to effective date||Any time prior to effective date||Any time prior to the effective date||Any time prior to the effective date||Any time prior to the effective date|
|Pre-existing annual maximum once covered||Unlimited depending on the plan||Up to $8,000,000||Unlimited depending on the plan||Unlimited depending on the plan||Full reimbursement||Unlimited depending on the plan||Unlimited depending on the plan|
|Pre-existing lifetime maximum once covered||Unlimited depending on the plan||Up to $8,000,000||Unlimited depending on the plan||Unlimited depending on the plan||Full reimbursement||Unlimited depending on the plan||Unlimited depending on the plan|
Attention: This article and table are made for informational purposes as the information contained here is subject to changes and updates.
In my opinion, the best international health insurance companies for expats are:
- Now Health
- Global Underwriters
- Foyer Global Health
Cigna is a company created in the United States and has a large role in Europe. It is a good choice when it comes to international health insurance.
With more than 60 years in the insurance market, Cigna is highly recognized for its insurance and has more than 170 million customers worldwide. My wife, Nikki, has already used a Cigna health plan to fulfill the validation requirements of her Swedish residency card.
The company has a wide range of plans to choose from, including specific plans for expats, which will work great if you’re going to the UK, as well as individual and family plans.
An advantage of Cigna is that you have the ability to add benefits to your contract according to your specific needs and the type of medical care you know you need covered.
You can choose between the Silver, Platinum or Gold plan. All have coverage in over 200 countries around the world.
If your focus is on a cheaper UK insurance plan, the best alternative is the Close Care plan. It is the most affordable option from Cigna, as coverage is only for your country of origin and the country where you intend to reside, in this case the United Kingdom.
Advantages of an international health insurance plan with Cigna:
- 24/7 service
- Flexibility if you need to make changes to the plan
- Coverage for COVID-19 or PCR tests
- No registration required to make quotes
- It has its own digital system to find hospitals and clinics with care close to you
- Cigna, for the most part, pays healthcare providers directly, with no need for a reimbursement system.
Disadvantages of an international health insurance plan with Cigna:
- Some plans don’t cover maternity
Another company recognized for its international insurance is IMG. It has over two decades of experience and 3 subsidiaries around the world.
IMG also has several types of plans to choose from, whether individual or for whole families, for expats or travelers. You will see that they have the possibility of plans with long stays of a year or more, but also short term travel plans.
This insurer’s website is very intuitive to navigate, with filters for dates, plan duration, destination and much more, making your search easier. In addition to these filters, you can add your personal details like age and specific needs.
In this way, IMG is able to make a detailed quote that allows you to compare plan and coverage options so that you are free to choose the best one.
But when hiring your service, be aware of the details of each plan, as some do not have coverage for certain ages and not all of their plans cover the needs of Covid-19.
Advantages of an international health insurance plan with IMG:
- Customer service 24 hours a day, seven days a week
- Flexibility plans for different client profiles
- More than 17,000 physicians for support
Disadvantages of signing up for an international health insurance plan with IMG:
- Some plans do not cover COVID-19
- No coverage for people 75+ years old
Now Health International is dedicated to offering an efficient, cost-effective, and readily accessible service, as suggested by its name. The company places a strong emphasis on establishing positive customer relationships. They prioritize providing clear and concise plan information and promptly addressing any inquiries or concerns through their dedicated customer support team.
Now Health plans are meticulously designed to meet the unique challenges faced by individuals living abroad. The company aims to provide guidance and facilitate access to high-quality healthcare services worldwide.
Advantages of an international health insurance plan with Now Health:
- Customized plans according to your needs
- Clear information and excellent customer service team
- Provides coverage in 194 countries and territories
- Plans with high coverage routine maternity coverage
Disadvantages of an international health insurance plan with Now Health:
- You must wait a 12-month grace period to use maternity coverage.
- In some procedures, it is necessary to use the company’s reimbursement system, which means that you would have to pay for your care initially
4. Aetna (acquired by Allianz)
Aetna has already won several awards and is a reference in the international insurance field. If you are looking for security and credibility at the time of your choice before your move to United Kingdom, then this is a good company to consider.
They don’t have a lot of variety of plans, but they have a flexibility that lets you add additional coverage (such as dental care). The plans include coverage of up to 5 million dollars, depending on the case.
You can choose from family or individual plans, and may include coverage for repatriation and medical evacuation.
As an expat, I highly recommend the Aetna Pioneer. The plan has basic coverage of up to $1.75 million. Simply fill out a short form on the website to see an accurate quote and get detailed information on available policies.
Advantages of an international health insurance plan with Aetna:
- They cover maternity
- Has an app that summarizes information and easy location of services and providers
- Short, medium and long term travel plans
- 24/7 care
- Pre-travel assistance to help with questions, such as vaccinations and regular use medications
Disadvantages of an international health insurance plan with Aetna
- Low plan diversity
- Higher prices than other companies on the list
SafetyWing is a very famous company with a high recognition in insurance for digital nomads, as it offers health insurance plans specifically for remote workers and companies, expats and digital nomads.
One of the biggest advantages of SafetyWing is that their policies are a little more accessible and easier to understand than other companies. Free of charge, they cover children from two to ten years old, if those responsible sign a plan.
Each package has a specific cost that depends on the age of the person subscribing. The cheapest plan doesn’t cover pre-existing health conditions, but it does cover up to $250,000. But you are free to add pre-existing condition coverage separately if needed, although this will add a fee to your total amount.
What I love most about SafetyWing is that the company gives you 30 days of free coverage in your home country for every 90 days you use their plans abroad, like in the UK.
Advantages of an international health insurance plan with SafetyWing:
- Modern website, easy access to information and intuitive
- Customer service every day of the week, 24 hours a day
- 30 days of free coverage in your home country for every 90 days of coverage used abroad
- Coverage for COVID-19 and treatment recommended by medical specialists
Disadvantages of an international health insurance plan with Safety Wing:
- The plans are not as comprehensive and tend to have less overall coverage than some of the other options on this list;
- Website prices do not include fees and taxes that you may have to pay
Global Underwriters is also very popular when it comes to international health insurance. They also have packages that cater to immigrants, students, digital nomads, and expats.
For someone moving to the UK I recommend the Diplomat Long Term or the Diplomat International Plan. Both have complete coverage and generally include everything an expatriate will need in their new country.
Advantages of an international health insurance plan with Global Underwriters:
- Up to $1 million of medical coverage in the two plans mentioned above, and $1 million in coverage in case of accidental death or dismemberment
- All day, every day of the week client assistance
- The above plans have emergency dental coverage, medical evacuations, and repatriation of remains
Disadvantages of an international health insurance plan with Global Underwritres:
- Diplomat Long Term does not insure travelers in Iran, Afghanistan and Cuba
- Diplomat International does not cover COVID-19
- Global Underwriters does not cover residents of Australia, Iran, South Dakota, Maryland and New York
Foyer Global Health is a major player in international health insurance plans for travelers, expats, digital nomads and immigrants.
It has a wide variety of plans, probably the biggest you can find on the market, in addition to being a reliable company (it is part of the largest European Foyer Group).
Advantages of an international health insurance plan with Foyer Global Health:
- The plans provide coverage for consultations, dental treatments and even surgeries
- 24/7 online or by phone
- Pre-travel service for vaccinations and first aid kit preparation
- Coverage is available for evacuation and repatriation
Disadvantages of an international health insurance plan with Foyer Global Health:
- The coverage limits are not clear
For over 20 years in the insurance market, GeoBlue offers insurance plans with international health coverage.
But this company only insures US citizens and residents. So, if you are not a US citizen or resident moving to UK, you can skip straight to the next option.
GeoBlue has health plans for different types of travelers, including immigrants. Xplorer Essential is the plan I highly recommend, as it’s made for long stays with unlimited coverage.
If you’re looking for a plan for a shorter stay, try the Voyager program. It’s very simple, you just need to fill out a form or get in touch with a broker to get a quote and receive more detailed information about the plans.
Advantages of a health insurance plan with GeoBlue:
- Feature application such as telemedicine
- 24-hour customer service, seven days a week
- Some plans have coverage for existing medical conditions
- All plans have unlimited coverage
Disadvantages of an international health insurance plan with GeoBlue:
- Only available to US residents or US citizens
- Low plan flexibility
- You need to submit a form or contact a broker for information or a quote for plans
UK Visa Types
All UK countries have the same visa rules. Because of this, getting a visa for any of the four countries, it is possible to live in any of them.
If you want to spend more than six months in the country, you need to apply for a visa. There are several types, some of them are:
1. Tourist Visa: As an expat, this is probably not your focus, but it’s still interesting to talk about this type of visa.
Citizens of some countries do not need a prior visa to enter the United Kingdom, only needing documents that prove that their stay there will not last more than six months.
Regarding the documents, it is necessary to present a passport, the return ticket, a document that proves the hotel or house where you will be staying and bank details that prove the financial situation to stay there for six months.
2. Temporary work visa: The Tier5 visa is made for foreigners who wish to work in the country for a short period of time. Having a maximum duration of one year, which can be extended to two in some cases.
Some jobs in England are eligible to get this type of visa, such as: Athlete, volunteer work, diplomat, researcher, work in a religious institution, work in the agricultural sector and the visa given to people between 18 and 30 years old who want to work in the UK for up to two years.
3. Permanent work visa: This is the Tier 2 visa, which grants expatriates three to nine years to stay in the UK, which can be extended if necessary.
The jobs in the country that can entitle you to this type of visa are: Qualified work, health professionals, employees of a foreign company that has a branch in the United Kingdom, elite athletes and missionaries.
The documents required to apply for both temporary and permanent work are: a valid passport, receipt of payment of the fee, confirmation of the interview schedule, documents supporting the requested information and a printed application form.
4. Visa for students: There is the short-term visa, where the student is allowed to stay in the UK for up to 11 months and the long-term visa, Tier4, which allows the student to stay for longer periods, which can be renewed.
For a short-term student visa, a passport, details of accommodation and travel itinerary, bank receipts, letter of acceptance from the institution and contact of a responsible person are required if the person applying for the visa is under 18 years old.
To apply for the Tier4 – or long-term student visa – you need, in addition to everything mentioned above, a certificate of proficiency in English (IELTS).
5. Family visa: Made for foreigners who have a spouse who is a citizen of the United Kingdom. Allows the stay for two years and six months in the territory, which can be extended for more.
You can complete the visa application process on the UK embassy website. Fees can vary between approximately 100 and 1,600 euros.
In addition, the process to obtain the visa can last around three weeks, which can be shortened by paying a fee that will make you a priority.
In a nutshell…
These are the 7 best health insurance companies for expats and immigrants moving to UK:
- Now Health
- Aetna (Allianz)
- Global Underwriters
- Foyer Global Health
Changing country and life is not a simple task, even if it is your dream… I hope this article has removed all your doubts and facilitated, at least a little, the process, at least when it comes to international health insurance for expatriates ! If you still have questions about insurance for your move to the UK (or any other country abroad), leave a comment and I’ll get back to you ASAP!
Planning your next trip?
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