Stephen Douglas has over 20 years of experience in the international insurance industry. He is the managing director of SaveSavvi.com, an insurance comparison site that partners with the world’s leading health and life insurers. Here he talks to MumAbroad about the importance of insurance and offers some essential tips for expat insurance buyers.
A comparison website, or aggregator, is an easy to use, simplified process of comparing a specific product-market. For health insurance, this means that within 20 seconds of visiting the site, you can compare 50 different insurance plans and premiums on one page, rather than going to every insurers’ website and requesting a quote individually. We live in the age of ‘now’ – I want a parcel delivered across the world by tomorrow; I want a tasty Vietnamese meal delivered to my door within 25 minutes – SaveSavvi.com is built on the same foundations, delivering expats independent insurance solutions, in an easily digestible way, within seconds, not minutes.
As an aggregator or ‘insurance supermarket,’ it’s important to us that we show and compare all of the options available to expats in each country location. This means that we have an onus to our site visitors to partner with as many insurance companies as possible so that we can show as many plan options as possible. Our broker partners recommend the best insurance company specific to the clients’ own personal circumstances and requirements. This ensures that visitors are given sound, independent advice, and often insider knowledge on which insurers are best for them. We will never stop expanding our partnerships with insurers globally.
Every insurer has its own features, benefits, and sometimes limits, all of which have an effect on the premiums that they offer. The different variables that set the insurers apart include:
All of these elements will have an impact on the differing costs and quotes you will receive when comparing the health insurance market.
Our platform and connections with all of our broker and insurer partners ensure a more streamlined process in finding the best health insurance for an expat family. From viewing the different cover options and premiums to accessing the application forms and submitting them to the underwriters at the insurance company – our process is built to make it as speedy and simple as possible.
When moving to a new country, medical care can often be overwhelming, especially when you have children. Knowing which clinic has English speaking doctors or which is the best private hospital can be a daunting task. That’s why it’s best to work with a local broker who can educate you on the best expat focussed private facilities in your area. Most insurers also have a network of clinics and hospitals that they can refer you to if you need to see a specialist – another great benefit of having private medical insurance.
Most international health insurers have an element of maternity & childbirth cover on their most comprehensive plans, but what a lot of expats don’t know, is that they have a waiting period before becoming eligible for cover. So if you are considering starting a family, please make sure you purchase your maternity insurance BEFORE becoming pregnant, as the waiting periods range from 9-12 months dependent on the insurer. If you attempt to purchase the insurance after you have conceived, then you would not be eligible for the childbirth cover, which is the most expensive cost of any pregnancy. That said, if you are pregnant, you should still purchase health insurance so that when the child is born, they are protected from birth.
This is a great question and highlights the main difference between local insurers (like Sanitas in Spain) and international health insurers (Like Allianz or Cigna). If you are an expat, and there is a possibility you may relocate to another country, you should always purchase your health insurance through an international insurer, as you would be covered wherever you travel in the world for holidays or business, but also, your coverage would continue unbroken if you moved to another country. If you have a local insurance plan, that cover would cease once you become a resident of another country. The problem with this is, if you have suffered an illness or injury whilst on the local plan, those conditions may not be covered when you move country, as you would be re-underwritten by your new insurer. My advice – stay with the same insurer if you ever experience any illness or injury to ensure you are protected moving forwards.
The first thing to consider when choosing life insurance is: what are you looking to protect? If you have children, then that is quite obvious, but for those expats who don’t have children, or who have children who are at a self-sufficient age, there may still be a need for life cover. Parents need life insurance to ensure their family receives the income that they would usually generate through their salary if they were no longer here to support them. Expats can also choose to take out life cover to pay off financial debt, most commonly a mortgage on their home, to ensure that their surviving loved ones are mortgage-free on their passing.
For parents, when deciding on how much cover is appropriate, the most common rule of thumb is between 5-10 times ones annual salary. So if you earn $50,000 per year, I would recommend between $350,000-$500,000 of cover, dependent on the number of children and their ages. For homeowners wanting to protect a mortgage, you can purchase decreasing term assurance whereby the sum assured reduces as the sum owed to the bank is paid back over the years. This option is often cheaper than your standard international term assurance.
Today would be the short answer because the sooner you start, the more you save, the sooner you can retire. However, the better answer to that question would be – as soon as you are financially stable enough to do so. There is no point in starting your personal pension if you do not have sufficient disposable income, as we find the first thing most people stop paying into when money becomes tight, are their savings, and then their insurance/protection. The second you feel confident in your career trajectory, you should start saving for a happy retirement, no matter how old are you are.
Everybody has a pre-disposition of invincibility until that invincibility is exposed, by either falling ill, having an accident or injury, or someone close to us passing away too early. Insurance is there to protect us from the unexpected, so we can’t predict whether or not we would need it, as nobody knows what the future holds.
Health insurance is there to pay for the often expensive medical bills that come from receiving care in a private hospital. The purpose of this is not to protect your health per se, but to protect your bank balance or life savings from these far-reaching costs. Simply giving birth in a private hospital in Hong Kong can cost $30,000, either your insurance company can pay that for you, or you can pay it yourself – I know which one I’d prefer!
Life insurance is there to protect your loved ones, which is especially important if you are a parent and you are the main breadwinner. Again, nobody expects to pass, so the idea of “I don’t need life insurance, I’m only 30” is actually quite silly when you look at it objectively. Actually, the best time to set up your life insurance cover is as young as possible, as with term life insurance – fixed sum assured, fixed-term, fixed monthly premium – the amount you pay monthly for your protection is fixed throughout the term, meaning it is much cheaper the younger you take out the plan.
We are incredibly proud to be part of the United Nations Global Compact Initiative (UNGCI), and have been members for 3 years now. The initiative supports global business and assists them in putting in place great foundations for business best practice. There is a strong focus on people management, like Human Rights & Labour Laws, but also, a keen desire to improve the environment through partnerships with international companies. We take part in regular online conferences to keep up to date with the ever-evolving developments within these fields and take all 10 Principles of the UNGCI very seriously. I would implore any business owner to join the Initiative and support the UN in making the business world a better place.