Expat health insurance and medical cover: A key factor when financial planning

‘The notion that aid to the poor perpetuates them in their poverty, that it would be better socially to leave them to nature’s intended fate, continues to lurk in public and private thought. It is the unspoken excuse for passing the beggar with the outstretched hand.’ – JK Galbraith, A History of Economics.

An area of financial planning that expats usually overlook and so do advisers is that of health insurance and medical cover. Sure, that statement depends on where you are. If you are in the USA, healthcare is a massive issue. In many other countries where some form of National Health Service / Welfare State exist, most clients just presume that should they become ill, long term, the government will support them, Not in Shanghai or most countries in Asia for that fact.

I’m afraid to tell you that the reality is that illness, especially long term, can be crippling to your family finances. Many governments will provide state aid to help the long term sick, but payment levels are well below everyone’s level of a normal income. The state aid is strictly subsistence level only.

This means that you face a choice as to whether or not to put financial protection in place. My own personal recommendation is that you consider some form of ill health insurance very carefully.

When you think about the subject in some depth, you will realise that everything else you do in life follows from your ability to earn an income. Almost everyone would consider car or buildings insurance to be vital, but should you be unable to work, you will be unable to pay for your car and it’s insurance. Without your income, everything else that you put in place is at risk. It really is as serious as that!

To try and solve this problem, insurance companies have developed four distinct products.

They are:
1. Accident, Sickness and Unemployment cover
2. Permanent Health Insurance
3. Critical Illness cover
4. Private Medical Insurance

Each of these four does a distinct and separate job in financial planning and we will cover them in brief detail to enable you to understand them a little better.


  1. My wife will be working in Shanghai next year. I would like to know the annual premiums payable for myself for a standard health insurance including outpatient care and a standard health insurance without outpatient care. We are presently living in Melbourne Australia. I am 55 yo male of slim build and good health condition.
    Hope you can help.
    Thank you.


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