Understanding Health and Care Abroad

Published 2012-08-30 16:17:17

skeleton We arrived in Germany in 2007 with the absolute cheapest insurance we could find. Possibly covered on the off chance we lost a limb, we made it through our year intact. Even better, we paid practically the same amount for my husband's diabetic medicine than we did in the US with insurance! (Rumblings about America's bizarre insurance policies are well-founded.)

Retuning to Germany in 2010 we could no longer skate by. A new visa requirement required adequate German insurance. Reluctantly, we ponied up our hard earned funds for minimal coverage and hoped for good health.  We've succeeded...thusfar.

But tomorrow, September 1st, is our first day of real insurance. My husband has secured the coveted German contract, complete with state health insurance. It's a relief, and a triumph. I feel like this is another step in the nebulous journey that toward what can be called expat success.

I went through a good 25ish years not thinking about health insurance. I was covered under my parent's insurance through university and have only been sweating this practicality of life for the past couple of years. Moving abroad is eye-opening, and it can expose some unpleasant truths about your home country. Americans are insulated from many of the diseases affecting poorer countries, but most of us are ineffectually covered in the case of a health disaster.

A recent article and intensive set of statistics from an article in the Guardian was illuminating.

Healthcare spending around the world, country by country

...As the US reacts to the latest supreme court ruling on President Obama's proposals, and the media's attention turns to how individual states will enforce the new proposals, we thought it would be interesting to take a step back and see how the US compares to other countries across the world.

The data shows that

The US has the highest health spending in the world - equivalent to 17.9% of its gross domestic product (GDP), or $8,362 per person. And it's not all private - government spending is at $4,437 per person, only behind Luxembourg, Monaco and Norway

Under half of all US health spending is by private companies - 46.9%. But it has the highest rate for health insurance in the world - 67.8% of all private spending. Which means the rest comes from out of pocket expenses, ie paying for health as you go

It is becoming increasingly apparent that the US doesn't have a handle on our healthcare and we are just now realizing how truly detrimental that can be. I highly recommend anyone, abroad or not, examine the numbers this article puts forward.

As I am begin to explore the benefits of insurance and care abroad, I look to the future with optimism. I am finding a whole new world of care and have little doubt that I will be better cared for at a lower price than where I was born. While just a side effect of my wanderlust, this fringe benefit is a luxury many can't afford.

What has been your experience with health insurance abroad?


Author: texkourgan
Expat Content Editor

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