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The Pitfalls of Buying Insurance Online

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As reported by medical insurance providers, there has been a noted increase in the proportion of online sales. It is seen as beneficial for both insurers, where back-office time and resources are saved, as well for customers, who are attracted to the easy and instant cover. Insurance coverage kicks in immediately and you’re on your way.

Although the online purchasing of products has its perceived benefits, buying insurance is somewhat more complicated than other products, such as a new TV or a pair of shoes. Furthermore, you will find that international medical insurance is more complex when compared to domestic insurance plans. You may be happily arriving abroad having bought your insurance plan from a reputable company only to find that it does not provide coverage for the country that you’re in.

Nowadays, compulsory insurance for expats is becoming a legal necessity due to the soaring health budgets of many countries. In fact, Japan, Germany, Spain, France and Holland are among the countries that are in the process of changing their regulations or have already made insurance mandatory.

To make matters worse, many governments are now requiring insurance to be issued from local providers, or at best, from international insurers with connections locally – essentially a brokerage with a local businessman on the board.

For instance, Germany is particularly unwilling to acknowledge some of the top-rated insurance plans from international providers based in the UK. Some critics claim that Germany’s stance on the issue is in conflict with EU competition rules, however, things are not that simple. Under German law, insurers are required to provide all-inclusive cover, such as accident insurance and aspects of elderly and long-term care cover. This goes beyond the limits of most international corporations.

Another complex territory is Switzerland, where each canton sets its own rules and regulations. It is considered that the francophone cantons are somewhat more flexible when compared to the German-speaking sector.

Due to the ever-changing regulations within the industry, it is not surprising that consumers can feel overwhelmed and perplexed when choosing an insurance policy. You may assume that the policy you took out with a multinational insurance company would include services such as emergency evacuation only to find that this is not the case.

For those purchasing their insurance online, these problems and misconceptions are usually avoided as consumers have the sense to call up their provider with questions before going to the checkout. As industry figures show, there has been a sharp increase in the volume of online sales, with some providers seeing a growth of fifty per cent. However, research has also shown that most consumers prefer to hear an actual human voice before making an expensive purchase.

But, it is still a hassle. Instead, the alternative is to use a broker. In essence, there are two ways in which to buy international medical insurance, you can do it the hard way by flogging through all the documents yourself, assuming you have a certain familiarity with the industry, or you can send it to a broker and ask for an impartial advice; “is this what I want, and if not, can you suggest an alternative?” It is generally recommended that insurance plans include in-patient and day-patient coverage as well as CAT scans and MRIs.

When choosing a broker, the absolute rule here is to check the broker is just that, and not an agent tied to one or two companies.

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