Monday, May 13, 2013

Nobody Wants to Talk About This... part II

Searching the internet for international health insurance is a bit like surfing for hotel accommodations. The options are numerous, depending on what you want -budget, moderate, better or deluxe- though it's far more complex and confusing than simply choosing between a room with a basic mattress and low thread count sheets and a luxurious room with pillow-top mattress and 600-count Egyptian cotton linens.

A few of the insurance company names we recognize from the USA, such as Cigna and MetLife, offer policies for expatriates in foreign countries. There are options to include or exclude coverage in the United States, with rates considerably lower if choosing the latter. This makes sense as we have the highest health care costs in the world. There are companies based in Europe and Asia that offer various plans and rates, from basic emergency coverage at reasonable rates to executive plans with full coverage, low deductibles and high premiums.

One of the more popular companies, recommended by Yucatan Living, is International Medical Group (IMG).  They also have a link to a specific agent, with whom they are 'loosely affiliated' and disclose that they receive a commission when purchasing through this link. I received an online quote from this agent that cost almost as much as private health insurance in the United States.  Going directly to the IMG website, I received a quote that was considerably less. Deductibles range from $250.00 to $10,000.00 and the premiums decrease substantially at the higher deductibles. IMG appears to have a solid reputation in the expat travel and medical insurance field.

Another source is Healthcare International, located in the United Kingdom, which has plans ranging from 'Healthcare Emergency Plus' with a maximum annual treatment benefit of $500,000 USD, to the 'Healthcare Executive' plan with an annual maximum of $2,000,000 USD. I requested an online quote for the least expensive plan with a $2000 USD deductible. I was quite surprised to receive a quote of $1,174.18 USD annual premium. This is the least expensive rate, by far, of all the other sources and is about what I would pay per month for a private insurance in the US. This is a basic plan that covers pretty much everything, while in the hospital, at 100% of the cost (up to $500,000 USD, which would be a whole bunch of Mexican pesos). It does not cover annual health checks, vaccinations, or outpatient diagnostics or prescriptions. For women of child-bearing age, it does not cover normal pregnancy and childbirth or complications of pregnancy and childbirth. It does cover 100% of the costs of emergency medical evacuation and medical repatriation, and up to $3000.00 for repatriation of mortal remains. This policy is worldwide, excluding USA.

There are many other choices for expatriate medical insurance that one can check out by simply  Googling 'international medical insurance'. Word of warning: If you provide an email address, which some companies require to receive an online quote, you will receive a phone call or email follow up which you can ignore if not interested. These people are like carnival hawkers for insurance companies.

Another option, and perhaps the best, is to find a local insurance agent in Mérida and purchase locally.
I have no idea what rates are like, but I've heard that they are reasonable. The Healthcare International policy might be a good choice for a year, to have coverage while en route through Mexico and until there is time to research, in person, what is available in Mérida. That would at least grant some peace of mind to the not necessarily paranoid but cautious expat like me.


  1. Dear John and Alan, Million thanks for your last two blogs on health-care in Merida, Yucatan. Francisco and I just bought La Cochera and we will be moving definitely to Merida this July and, obviously, health-care insurance in on our minds... Francisco, who is a native of Mexico (Villahermosa, Tabasco) keeps telling me that IMSS is enough... and I keep wondering. I suppose we'll see when we get there. And, yet, one must inform oneself. Thanks for your two articles and I hope we cross each other in Merida. It would be quite a pleasure. Jose

  2. Hi Jose and Francisco. Congratulations on your purchase of La Cochera -a great house. We should be right behind you, coming down in late September, early October and will look forward to meeting you.

    The insurance issue is a huge question mark for us. Still looking at the options.

    Thanks so much for your comment.

  3. John and Alan, my partner and I are visiting Merida for the first time and contemplating a move here. We are retirees who are concerned about health care. We appreciate your articles. From reading and talking with other expats, it's my understanding that top-notch medical and dental care is so affordable, you can pay out of pocket, avoiding the expense of insurance.