Since health care systems differ from one country to another, you should always take this into account long before you move abroad. A future expatriate should find out everything about the health cover they can expect in a country which isn't their own before they think about moving.

When you are thinking of leaving the country, you should leave nothing to chance and each phase should be meticulously prepared. In the same way as getting your visa, looking for a house or apartment, opening a local bank account or getting your phone connected, providing for any potential health issues is also paramount. A simple cold, flu or an everyday accident could occur at any moment. And it appears that even the act of moving makes you more susceptible. This is because of the fact that moving is a complete upheaval of your usual routine (change of climate, food, less time for doing sport, etc.). So before you go, you must check out what health cover you're eligible for so you don't end up in a situation where care becomes impossible because it is too expensive. Health systems differ depending on the country, and it's important to understand how some of them work.

 

Private health care: the United States system

Often resulting in individuals declaring themselves bankrupt, the American health system is well-known for being expensive and complex. American health insurance mainly relies on private funding, apart from the MEDICAID provision that was set up in 1965 to treat the most impoverished among the sick.

To begin with, you have to understand the difference between the concepts of Corporate Mandate and Individual Mandate.

Corporate Mandate: applies to the health insurance contract taken out by an employer on behalf of their employees. These contracts are handled by private organisations. A contribution is deducted directly from the salary of employees.  Beneficiaries can thus claim medical benefits at a reasonable cost provided that they go through the practitioners or hospitals that are part of the network.

 Individual Mandate: applies to employees who prefer to take out private health insurance instead of the employer's health insurance. The annual cost of such insurance varies between $6,000 and $17,000. It should also be noted that deductibles still have to be paid before care is even handled by the insurance.

 

The public health care system: the United Kingdom

Founded just after the Second World War, the National Health System is the United Kingdom's public health system and covers British nationals, permanent residents, students over 6 months or anyone with a work permit.

British health insurance represents a low financial burden for those covered by it, as it is financed by taxes and, to a lesser extent, by social security contributions. The system runs via third-party payment through the NHS, so medical expenses are advanced by health professionals or hospital establishments. On the other hand, specialist consultations are billed to patients on the basis of a fixed rate, except for those who are the most in need or those with a particular health status (pregnancy for example). Every patient is free to choose their own GP from the list of approved doctors or to choose to consult a doctor who is not approved by the NHS; in the latter case it means that medical expenses are not reimbursed.

 If a worker is unable to work, they are able to benefit from the payment of daily allowances from the 4th day that they stopped work (Statutory Sick Pay).

 

A hybrid model: the French health care system

French health care is based on a combination of the private and the public health care model. The compulsory basic health insurance scheme is financed by social security contributions (from workers' salaries and their employers).

Anybody who lives or works in France on an ordinary, regular basis must be affiliated with the social security system. It is both a right and an obligation and is there to enable people to claim support for personal medical expenses. In addition, the patient has the option of signing up with mutual or supplementary private health insurance that supplements all or part of the care provided by social security. Since 2016, by law, employers must offer their employees a company health insurance scheme, and their employees must join it unless they present proof that they are affiliated with another supplementary health insurance scheme.  Employers pay part of the contributions while rates vary according to the insured person's situation.

And, just like the United Kingdom, the French social security system pays daily allowances if a worker is unable to work.

 

Take stock of the situation

Health care systems can vary drastically from one country to another. It is therefore essential that you find out everything about the system in place in the country you are moving to before you leave.

As well as this, it's a good idea to find out about what is covered by health insurance. In fact, some supplementary health insurance schemes cover you even when you're abroad. For example, employees of French companies that have been sent abroad are still affiliated with the French social security system. On the other hand, an expat French worker can no longer benefit from it.

In conclusion, if you want to move abroad with complete peace of mind, it is vital that you find out everything you need to know about the issues arising from health insurance and the legislation in force in the country of destination.

There is a lot of help available to answer any possible questions you may have.

Florine PERILLAUD by Florine PERILLAUD

Human Resources Assistant