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Your step-by-step guide to getting the best expat health insurance plan

Health insurance policies are never one-size-fits-all and life circumstances have a habit of changing. The Local spoke to an expert from leading insurance broker ASN to help you get the best value bespoke insurance policy.

Your step-by-step guide to getting the best expat health insurance plan
Photo credit: Natasha Fedorova

Many factors affect whether your current health insurance plan is still right for you. Moving to a new country, for example, could mean that your policy is no longer compliant. Even things that seem insignificant, like joining a football team, may require you to renegotiate your coverage. 

We spoke to ASN’s Françoise Villoz to make sure you know the basics before taking out or renewing your health insurance policy.

Step 1: Take stock of yourself

Before negotiating your new policy, take note of any changes in your recent health status along with any other factors that might impact your insurance profile. These factors not only include illness or injuries but whether you’ve taken up a risky new hobby like bungee jumping or if you travel regularly to dangerous regions for work. Furthermore, if you have a medical condition for which you have been paying an extra fee as part of your insurance you might be able to get your health loading or medical exclusion dropped.

Click here to get a bespoke health insurance policy

“If you have recovered fully from a serious skiing accident that happened ten years ago and have not required any treatment since recovering, then your insurance company might be willing to take the loading out of your contract,” advises Françoise.

Photo: Deposit photos

It might go without saying, but before you get into the thick of the negotiation process, it is a useful exercise to ask yourself whether you are satisfied with your current provider. Delayed or partial (or too administratively complicated) reimbursement of claims, for example, might be reasons for you to consider looking for a new insurance provider partner. Similarly, if your premium has increased year on year, you may want to shop around.

Step 2: Research your options thoroughly

If you are satisfied with your current insurance provider (or don’t have time to trawl through all the other insurance providers out there), then the best way to renew your current plan is to call your current provider. If there’s been no change in your circumstances in the past year, then the renewal should be straightforward. However, if your current insurance provider doesn’t – or won’t – live up to your expectations, (or you simply want to find a better insurance provider for your specific situation), then you will need to do a little digging.

Click here to get a bespoke health insurance policy

Françoise points out that insurance companies usually have specialist areas and coverage expertise, and while your provider can usually not refuse you a renewal, it might not be able to update your insurance to cater to your new circumstances. For this reason, a rule of thumb in the research process is to first check whether a company offers comprehensive and favourable coverage for all of your needs in each area of your life. If not, then it’s time to jump ship.

“If you have taken up a sport such as football or tennis you need to make sure when you do your research that your chosen insurance provider covers not only sports in general but your sport in particular,” warns Françoise.

Lastly, even if you are a picture of health and your life circumstances have stayed roughly the same, if you have moved to a new country, you must acquaint yourself with the rules and regulations of your new home. If you don’t, you might find out the hard way that your insurance is not compliant, and that you need to get an additional local insurance.

Photo: Deposit photos

Step 3: Before you ring

Before you pick up the phone to start negotiating your new policy, there are a few things to be mindful of. No new provider will insure you if you’re pregnant (if you are, there is normally a ten- to twelve-month waiting period). Likewise, if you have cancer, you seldom have an option but to stay with your current insurance provider. Secondly, if you have a new medical condition, make sure to have all the details on the table in front of you, and be prepared to negotiate hard if you are looking to upgrade your policy. Before you begin browsing for a new insurance provider, be prepared that your options may be limited in certain countries – including the U.S. – and that, if you have relocated, your current provider might not have coverage in your new country of residence.

Click here to get a bespoke insurance policy

If your medical condition is severe – or if you have been refused an upgrade by both your current and prospective health insurance providers – you might want to consider consulting an insurance broker such as ASN International Insurance. Since brokers usually have strong partnerships with many of the major providers, in certain cases, this can mean the difference between getting a better bespoke policy or not.

“We have a big portfolio with many clients as well as strategic partnerships with many of the key insurance companies,” says Françoise. “Since it is in their best interest to maintain good relations with us, insurance companies are often more cooperative when clients with serious conditions are represented by one of ASN’s experts.”

Finally…

When you receive your insurance proposals, make sure to carefully read both the general conditions (do double-check the cancellation terms!) and the small print of your contract. No-one’s trying to pull the wool over your eyes but you always need to be cautious when changing providers.

“Even if you have found a new insurance provider and you are sure they will take you on, you should never cancel your current contract before you have received final confirmation that your new provider will cover you as per the agreement,” says Françoise.

If you’re short on time but want a bespoke health insurance policy at the best price, consider getting in touch with an insurance broker like Françoise at ASN International Insurance. ASN does all the heavy lifting for you and will send your custom-built top three policy offers within two weeks.

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by ASN.

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Reader question: How can foreign doctors practise medicine in Austria?

If you are a doctor moving to Austria, there are a few legal requirements you need to follow before starting your medical practice. Here is what you should know.

Reader question: How can foreign doctors practise medicine in Austria?

Medical doctors are in high demand all over the world, especially as the coronavirus pandemic showed us how much we are short-staffed in the health sector.

In Austria, it’s no different, and the federal government has already announced several measures to attract people to its health sector in the future.

READ ALSO: More pay and longer holidays: How Austria hopes to attract 75,000 new nurses

Among the measures are changes to its Red-White-Red residence permits, those that, for example, allow workers, including in shortage occupations, to immigrate to Austria on a work visa.

Things will get easier for many IT employees, engineers, and tourist sector workers, but in some sectors, including the health one, there are a few more hurdles before starting working.

READ ALSO: How Austria is making it easier for non-EU workers to get residence permits

When it comes to medical activities, even European citizens who already have a right to live and work in Austria might need to go through a process to get their education certified and valid to start a medical practice in the country.

The process will depend primarily on where your training has taken place and what type of medical activity you intend on doing. All details can be found on the Austrian Medical Association (Österreische Ärztekammer).

General requirements for medical practice

In order to take up a medical practice in Austria, every physician (doctor, specialist, or general practitioner) needs to register with the Ärztekammer and meet the general legal requirements.

These include having full legal capacity concerning professional practice, good character and reputation required for fulfilling professional duties, fitness to practice needed for completing professional responsibilities, sufficient knowledge of the German language and legal residence giving access to the labour market.

READ ALSO: Everything foreigners need to know about the Austrian healthcare system

There are also specific requirements that need to be met depending on where your training took place.

Training took place within the EEA or in Switzerland

In this case, the process tends to be a bit easier, and you need to provide evidence of your basic medical training and any specific or specialist training you might have. For that, a diploma for medical study issued by an EEA member state of Switzerland will work.

You can check whether your documents are eligible for automatic recognition in Austria by emailing the Austrian Medical Association at [email protected].

Medical training outside the EEA (but recognised)

If you have had medical training outside of the EEA or Switzerland, but your training has been recognised by one of these states, the rules are also a bit different. You must show evidence of the medical activity and proof of its recognition.

Additionally, you must be authorised to independent medical practice in the country that recognised your education and has at least three years of actual and lawful professional experience in that country to have your training recognised through a non-automatic recognition of third country diplomas process.

You need to contact the International Affairs Team of the Austrian Medical Association ([email protected]) to get more information.

Medical training done in a third country

If you have completed your medical training in a third country and do not fulfil the requirements for a non-automatic recognition (above), you must first have your university degree recognised as equivalent by an Austrian university.

This process is known as Nostrifizierung.

In Austria, the Nostrifizierung procedure is done by the medical universities (Vienna, Graz or Innsbruck) with similar processes. In Vienna, you need to submit an application form, an education history for the comparison between the Curriculum taken and the one offered in Austria, and a possible “random test”.

Among the documents to be submitted in the application process is proof that you have a B2 level of German, a document from the Ärztekammer that you are required to go through the Nostrifizierung process and a confirmation that you paid the €150 fee. You can find a list of all documents you’ll need to submit here.

READ ALSO: Six things to know about visiting a doctor in Austria

The universities will then “investigate” if your education is equivalent to the one offered in Austria. The first step is a curriculum comparison (checking for both content and hours of classes), but they may also carry out a “random test” in some cases.

The test will be in German, but the participants selected will be allowed to use a language dictionary – the test results are only a part of the nostrification process and help the universities assess if the candidate’s training is equivalent to an Austrian one.

After you go through the recognition processes (Nostrifizierung), you can register with the Austrian Medical Chamber.

Registration with the Austrian Medical Association

Before starting medical practice in Austria, every person needs to register with the Austrian Medical Chamber. For this, they will need to send documents including proof of nationality, proof of lawful residence, a certificate of good standing from countries where they have practised medicine for more than six months within the last five years, a criminal record certificate, medical certificate (confirming physical and mental fitness to practice the medical profession) and more.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How the Austrian healthcare system works

The application for registration has to be filed with the Austrian Medical Chamber.

The Medical Chamber of the respective province where you plan to exercise the medical profession is available to further assist with this. You can arrange a meeting with them to clarify general questions about the process.

Here you can find more information.

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