Tenzing pacific services

Health Insurance for Seniors
in Southeast Asia

Geoffrey Mann By Geoffrey Mann – November 27, 2023

If your plans include being a long-term Southeast Asia resident during your golden years, you’ll definitely want to consider health insurance. One simple but hard fact most expats don’t want to face is this: as we age, it’s increasingly difficult to find decent, affordable coverage here from private insurers. But as you read through some of the reasons for this, be aware that there are high quality, fair and honest providers and policies available.

Insurance just costs more as we age

Insurance companies exist to make money – if the premiums we pay are greater than their insurance claims, they’ve made a profit. Human health generally deteriorates as we get older, which leads to more and more medical care, which is expensive. This means older customers are more risky than younger, so the insurance companies charge them more in premiums in order to still make that profit.

Health insurance cost more with age
Data from Moneygeek.com

You might already be too old to buy some policies

Private health insurance companies in the region are not required to offer coverage to anyone based on age. So, not surprisingly, many insurers simply cut off insurance eligibility at a certain age. If you’ve reached 65, your options have already shrunk by about one-third.

You could lose your coverage because of your age

Your options can shrink further if you have had prior illnesses and accidents, which is certainly not uncommon for seniors. Again, the insurance providers aren’t subject to requirements that they provide coverage to folks with pre-existing medical conditions. They can – and usually do – charge higher premiums, exclude the existing conditions from your policy’s coverage, or simply decide not to cover you at all.

Repatriation isn’t always an option

Some choose to rely on their home country’s national health system for care in the event of a serious accident or illness.  This approach doesn’t always work:  if you have major injuries or a dire illness, it may not be possible to transport you for days or weeks, during which time you’ll incur significant uncovered expenses.  Also, the cost of a medical transfer can be extraordinary, especially if serious care and equipment is involved.

How to drive down your cost

There are ways to save on premiums, but they involve tradeoffs.

  • Inpatient-only coverage. Covering outpatient services – day-to-day doctor visits, prescriptions drugs, routine tests, and the like – will typically double the cost of your policy. Skipping this coverage will thus help you save significantly on premiums, and although you’ll need to pay these expenses yourself, you’ll find most of them are relatively cheap in Southeast Asia. On the other hand, a week’s stay in a good hospital can cost upwards of $100,000.

More information on our blog: Inpatient vs Outpatient Health Insurance Benefits

  • Catastrophic coverage with a high deductible. Similarly, you can opt for inpatient-only coverage with a high deductible (aka excess), which will drive down your premium even further. The insurance provider won’t pay for your expenses until you’ve paid the deductible amount yourself, but you can bank your premium savings until you need to pay down the deductible (and hope you won’t need to!).
  • Shrink your coverage area. Worldwide coverage is intuitively more expensive than regional. If you need to travel far and often, this might not be a good option, but if you spend most of your time in Southeast Asia, a regional policy will be cheaper. At the same time, you may be able to opt for a lower annual coverage limit, since medical costs here are significantly lower than in the west.

Finally, make your decision with the goal of sticking with a provider and policy. Changing plans will become increasingly difficult as you get older, and perhaps impossible if you contract a serious illness.

If this all sounds somewhat dire, take heart – there are reasonable options available. Of our top 30 providers, roughly 20 take new customers above age 65, and 15 cover above age 70, but fewer than 5 above age 75. So policies are out there, but please don’t assume finding a suitable choice will be quick and easy, or cheap. Fewer options usually means harder choices. Of course, we strongly recommend consulting with an experienced advisor as you work through these important decisions.

These articles are intended to give you enough information to make informed decisions, but health insurance is complicated. Whether you still have questions on this topic or feel ready to take the first steps toward getting a policy, our advisors can help. Just fill in this form.

Geoffrey Mann

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