Thursday, 22 February 2018

⑨ Do You Need International Travel Health Insurance Instead to Apply for Cohabitation Visa?

What is the difference between Travel Insurance and International Health Insurance?

Travel Insurance (Single Trip)

Travel insurance is a short-term solution to emergency medical treatment. Therefore, it will not cover long-term medical care. Subsequently, a person is typically expected to return to his country of origin and continue seeking treatment. The coverage will terminate once he returns to his country.

  • Provide cover for emergency treatment overseas for a limited duration
  • Cover trips of limited duration
  • Cover a maximum of 182 consecutive days
  • Return Air Ticket (You might run into problems with claims later if it is a one-way ticket to Belgium. Check with your insurance company)
  • Medical expenses for the travel insurance is on reimbursement basis (meaning you pay first then submit the claim once back in one’s home country)
  • Protect against travel related issues
    • Cancellation of trip
    • Flight Delay
    • Loss of luggage and personal belongings
    • Emergency medical treatment

One travel insurance company that I checked with could not cover an overseas trip for more than 120 days continuously. I asked for a ‘special’ travel insurance that could cover more than 120 days’ stay. Consequently, the premium for an 182-days of single trip travel insurance coverage is exorbitant. Moreover, I received a few quotes for around €500.

Wow! That was expensive with a limited duration coverage. Before going to Belgium, I prepared myself mentally not to go back to my country for 12 months. Furthermore, I would not know how long the whole cohabitation visa procedure would drag. Additionally, I want an affordable health insurance plan for 9 to 12 months without burning a hole in my pocket.

As a result, in a Single Trip plan, one pays according to the number of travelling days and the region covered. The shorter the trip, the lower the cost.

Travel Insurance (Annual Plan)

The design of annual travel insurance plan is for several travel trips within a duration of one year period. The highlights are almost similar to the Single Trip plan above except for the number of days covered per trip. Various travel insurance companies have different duration limit capped per trip too.

The range of days is from 24 to 92, especially at 31 days. Some companies also restrict a maximum of 180-days of travel per year. That is in addition to the duration limit per trip. One pays more accordingly if the number of days per trip exceeds the standard number of days offered in the annual travel insurance plan.

International Health Insurance

International health insurance is the more appropriate plan for expats relocating overseas. Whether for living or working abroad for an extended time, the plan has a comprehensive medical coverage with several options.

The benefits are outpatient and inpatient treatment, maternity care, dental care and repatriation for both emergency and routine health care. It also entitles the expats to choose their doctor and treatment facility anywhere under their region of coverage.

The expats can choose any duration of coverage and extends the period to their desires as well. Besides that, they can perform the claim submission anywhere and is highly flexible.

Claim Issue in Belgium for Travel Insurance

Getting a general travel insurance is mandatory when one applies for a Schengen Visa. However, it may not be the best choice for people who enter into Belgium visa-free. They prefer an insurance that gives ample protection. Not just for the sake of submitting it to the commune for the cohabitation visa process.

Still, the commune would accept a travel insurance purchase just for three months. Under the presumption that they would not know the distinction between a general travel insurance and an international health insurance. As long as a health insurance meets the minimum coverage amount of €30,000 on paper, they accept it.

There might be a risk if an individual buys a travel insurance instead of the international health insurance. When the occasion arises for a claim, the individual may be able to do it while staying in Belgium.

If round trip air ticket is one insurance claim requirement, why do we spend money to buy the insurance which we cannot claim later when a need arises? There is so much fine print of restrictions that most of us would not read when purchasing the insurance.

*Terms and conditions may differ from the insurance companies and the country of coverage. Please double check with the insurance company which you want to buy.

How many Months of Health Insurance to Submit?

Many people submitted a 3-months travel insurance to their commune with not much of a problem. There were also people who the commune specified the number of months for submission. In another word, a health insurance has to cover an individual for more than three months.

If you think that an international health insurance is more expensive than a general travel insurance, you might be far from it.

Refer below to a simple analysis of the premium comparison between AXA Schengen Travel Insurance and IMG Hopper Travel Medical Coverage. IMG Hopper is an International Health Insurance from Pacific Prime. IMG Hopper is cheaper and has a higher coverage amount than AXA Schengen Insurance.

*Terms and conditions apply.

Cost Analysis between AXA Schengen Visa and IMG Hopper

Factors affecting the premium paid is dependent on age, gender, destination country and the insurance excess amount.

Name of Insurance Plan Schengen Low Cost
Coverage Amount €30,000, Zero Excess
Coverage Duration 3 months
Test Period 1 March to 31 May 2017
Total Cost is fixed regardless of age, gender and nationality = €110


 Taking US Female Citizen and destination in Belgium as an example. 

Name of Insurance Plan IMG Hopper from Pacific Prime
Coverage Amount €40,000, Zero Excess
Coverage Duration 3 months
Test Period 1 March to 31 May 2017
Age 21 – 29 €86.25 (for 3-months)
Age 30 – 36 €105.00 (for 3-months)
Age 40 €180 (for 3-months)

 ‘Excess’ or ‘deductible’ are the same words (American English and UK English). It refers to the amount of medical claim one will cover first before the insuring company starts reimbursing claims.

  • Zero Excess means that one get a full reimbursement in a claim up to the specific amount stated. AXA Schengen Low-Cost Plan has a zero excess amount by default.

The cost of the health insurance from IMG Hopper is even cheaper if one purchases a plan with excess.

  • An example of €100 excess: You go to the doctor three times and he bills you €50 for each visit. When you claim, the insurer will cover only $50. You pay the first $100 which is your deductible amount. Now, in that same year, you go to the doctor another three times. This time the insurer covers the whole $150 (because you have already covered your deductible amount for that year). The deductible is almost always per year for an individual.

My Health Insurance Plan

The cost analysis above tells you which insurance plan I bought. Two weeks before arriving in Belgium, I bought IMG Hopper from Pacific Prime. IMG Hopper offers the cheapest health insurance plan after sending many email enquiries to different insurance companies for quotations. It has the lowest coverage of €40,000 that I could find online.

The other insurance companies offer a higher coverage amount which unquestionably leads to a higher premium paid. But, I only need a minimum €30,000  insurance coverage as specified by the legal cohabitation contract requirement.

On the other hand, I do not want to consider a general travel insurance. A travel insurance is not necessary for me due to my visa-free passport. Whereas, I want a health insurance plan for protection throughout my stay in Belgium. I will get a Belgian national health insurance after getting my eID at a later date.

Your Belgian/EU partner’s health insurance plan can cover you. Read more below on the method to do it after signing a legal cohabitation declaration.

» Extension of Health Insurance

Firstly, I bought my health insurance for six months from July 2016 to January 2017. Thus, the policy starts on the day of departure from Singapore to Belgium. My Orange Card is valid from September 2016 to March 2017. The duration of my health insurance policy could not cover the entire Orange Card’s period until March 2017.

Likewise, I did not want to submit my 3-months health insurance plan. What’s more, I hate to risk a rejection of the residence permit F card after waiting for six months. Of course, many people submitted health insurance of 3-months. The commune also accepted it without hesitation.

Secondly, I tried to extend my first insurance coverage in the system. But it was not successful as my policy was not due for an extension yet. Out of impatience, I bought the second similar health policy from the same company too without extension.

The new period covered me from January to the last day of my Orange Card’s expiry date in March 2017. I merged the two separate health insurances into one PDF file and submitted to the municipal office later.

» Cost of IMG Hopper

I paid the premium in total for less than €200 for a policy covering 8-months. Consequently, please specify the coverage limit to only ‘Europe’ and not ‘Worldwide’. Otherwise, you have to pay more if the coverage area is more than Europe.

» Visa Letter

Additionally, I was pleased that IMG Hopper came with a Visa Letter which was helpful. The letter stated clearly the coverage amount, repatriation sum, and the amount of excess one paid for the hospitalisation expense.

Can I Be Covered under My Belgian/EU Partner’s National Insurance Plan?

No, if you do not have a Belgian National Number yet. You will get your National Number when you received your Orange Card. In the meanwhile, buy a private insurance like IMG Hopper of AXA Schengen Insurance. You can buy the national insurance later once you receive your Orange Card.

Yes, ask for the document ‘Attest Samenstelling van Gezin’ (Letter of Family Composition) from the commune of where you stay. Then, submit this copy to the Belgian national health insurance company. You have to prove a family unit formed together with your Belgian or EU partner. The cost of the Belgian national health insurance is €70/year.

At that time, I could not confirm whether an Orange Card was necessary to apply for ‘Attest Samenstelling van Gezin’. But, I knew some people who had their insurance covered under their partners successfully even without having an Orange Card.

Nevertheless, try and get this certificate after your legal cohabitation declaration at the commune. To get this insurance, you must either not be working or have a salary not exceeding a certain amount.

Many communes provide the service of getting the Family Composition certificate online. Google “Attest Samenstelling van Gezin + Your City”. Then, apply it online. You should be able to receive it by post or in person. Check the instruction of the website for more detail.

» Get Your Belgian partner to Ask CM, Not You

Here is my experience with one health insurance fund in Belgium, CM. I went to a CM office in Antwerp and told the lady at the counter that I had an Orange Card. Thus, I would like an insurance under my boyfriend’s name for the purpose of the family reunion. She told me outright that I could only get a private insurance which they did not have for the foreigners.

There might be some miscommunication during the conversation exchange. Or perhaps, the staff did not know much about Orange Card since the term was informal. She just brushed me off quickly and coldly.

The reply was different when my boyfriend went down to CM personally. Someone told him that I could have the insurance under his account because after getting the legal declaration signed and approved, we have already formed a family unit.

My advice is to get your Belgian partner to get certain things moving by asking the involved organisation relevant questions. When people communicate in their native language, it is sometimes easier to get things done without misinterpretation of information. Sad to say, it is true in many circumstances everywhere in the world.

Pacific Prime – Your Reliable Broker

Pacific Prime is one of the largest brokers for private medical insurances in the world for insurers like Bupa, AXA, Allianz, Cigna, Aetna, NowHealth and more. Pacific Prime partners with approximately 30 or 40 worldwide insurers covering nearly all the major insurance companies out there.

There is a consultant who will call or email the interested party after submitting a quotation enquiry online. The name of the representative providing the insurance service to Belgium territory is Justin d’Anethan, Senior Consultant. Well, he is also my consultant throughout my insurance purchase.

He would clarify any doubts before buying the insurance. His service and response were so excellent and detailed. You can count on him to answer any pre-sales questions especially for those terms that were hard to understand. Needless to say, his post sales service was as reliable. He would be the person that one looks for in the event of an insurance claim.

During the process of enquiry, it is a good gauge to test the response level of the consultant. I like the idea of having a personal consultant throughout the insurance process because the same person will have a better idea of my need rather than repeating it to different customer service if I have a problem.

With his permission, you can send an enquiry directly to him at justin.anethan@pacificprime.com. Address your concern and get him to propose suitable health and travel insurance plans. Alternatively, you can use Prime Pacific online enquiry system to submit your question. Being a Belgian himself, he is an ideal person regarding travel health insurance for Belgian visa application.

Did your partner register you under his insurance without an orange card? Which is the private insurance that you buy?

About Live in Belgium

Hello, my name is MissSJ. I am a Singaporean. I am living with my Belgian partner since July 2016 in a cosmopolitan city, Antwerp. However, I had been travelling to and fro Belgium since 2011 as a tourist. The creation of this blog is to document my new journey in Belgium which I would like to call 'home'. Join me in discovering the fascinating Belgium from the eyes of an expat.

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