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Without being able to communicate, you are unsure if they have diagnosed your problem correctly or prescribed the right treatment. Moreover, they are demanding payment before a doctor will see you.

Approximately one million Canadians currently live abroad or in the United States. Some have moved and set up permanent residence, while others are temporarily studying or working outside their home country. Known as expatriates or “expats”, these individuals have a special set of insurance requirements not provided by provincial health insurance plans, or by a company employee health plan.

So what is a Canadian expat to do to ensure you get the medical care you need whenever and wherever you need it?

Work with an international insurance company

An international insurance company understands your unique situation and can set you up with a plan that covers you for a specific length of stay, with varying levels of coverage for you and your family.

Healthcare systems are vastly different from country to country, and even from state to state. An international insurance company is familiar with these differences and can ensure you have protection no matter where you work or travel, and whether your stay is temporary or permanent.

Depending on which country you are in, you may want your international health insurance plan to include the following:

  • 24/7, one-number access to multilingual people you can call for advice and direction
  • A network of healthcare professionals and facilities where you can be directed should you require emergency care
  • Medical coverage for outpatient treatment, inpatient surgery and hospital stays
  • A direct pay component – payment is provided from your insurance company at the time you need care so you don’t have to pay out-of-pocket
  • Emergency evacuation to your home province in the event of a medical emergency, natural disaster or country unrest
  • Non-emergency coverage such as eye care, dental, routine doctor visits and prescriptions

Depending on your personal situation, you may want to ask about coverage for:

  • Life events such as pregnancy and childbirth
  • Care and medications for chronic health conditions

Plan ahead to be sure

As busy as you are with your preparations for departure, it’s best to purchase an international health plan at least two months before you leave. Here’s why:

When you arrive, you may not be allowed off the plane – In some countries, such as the emirate of Abu Dhabi, if you can’t prove you have the right health insurance, you will be turned away.

Your prescriptions will be difficult to find – Some prescription medications with the same name have different active ingredients. You may need to buy your medications at home rather than play roulette with drugs from a foreign pharmacy.

It can take awhile for international health insurance to kick in – Medical underwriting can take several weeks for international policies. You don’t want to arrive at your destination and be unprotected.

If you or a family member has a special medical issue, this will give you time to work with your insurance company to make the proper arrangements such as:

  • Locating an English-speaking specialist in your destination country
  • Working with your home specialist to obtain medical files and perhaps have them translated
  • Ensuring you have a full supply of special medication for the length of your stay

Living abroad is an exciting opportunity. Having the right international insurance plan in place will allow you to make the most of your stay without worrying about health protection for you and your loved ones.

Health Insurance for Canadians Living Abroad

If you are planning to live abroad, take out international health insurance.

Imagine arriving at a foreign hospital needing emergency care. No one appears to understand English.

These tips are provided for information and prevention purposes only. They are general in nature, and Desjardins Insurance cannot be held liable for them. We recommend using caution and consulting an expert for comprehensive, tailored advice.

In Quebec, Desjardins Insurance refers to Desjardins General Insurance Inc. In Ontario and Alberta, Desjardins Insurance refers to Certas Direct Insurance Company, underwriter of automobile and property insurance.

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