Medical Insurance and the implication of moving countries & pre-existing conditions

In the past Months I have been contacted by several clients confirming to us that they will move out of Hong Kong. The protest and Coronavirus have been taking its toll on many expat families. Everyone of them I spoke to is leaving Hong Kong reluctantly, they all came to Hong Kong with the idea to make it their home for years or even decades. A common returning topic in these conversations is their medical insurance policies.

For clients with a Private International Medical Insurance the consequences of moving out Hong Kong are minimal. These plans can be renewed worldwide and when insured persons have existing illnesses these will be continued to be covered in their new country of residence. Often these clients take out International Medical Insurance because they foresee that they would leave Hong Kong at some point but not ready to go back to their home country yet.

Clients with a Local Medical Insurance the situation is often different. Local Medical insurance often require the insured to be resident in Hong Kong to renew their policies. Sometimes insurer apply restriction in their cover or benefits which could leave the insureds out of pocket in case of large medical bills. When clients move out and are not allowed to renew their policies, they’ll need to source a new medical insurance cover in their new residential country. This is fine if one is healthy but could be problematic if someone has existing illnesses.

These Pre-existing conditions will be assessed by medical insurers and treated in the following ways:

  1. Accept the pre-existing conditions (with or without loading/additional premium)
  2. Exclude the pre-existing conditions and all other future illnesses will be covered
  3. Reject cover

Being slapped with exclusions is not pleasant and often a wake up call or a grim reality check of one’s health condition but at least there is cover for future more severe illnesses. But rejection of cover is a bigger problem because medical insurance does avoid going bankrupt paying Hospital bills (especially in Hong Kong) and without cover and personal assets will be exposed in this case. Some clients say they move to countries where medical cost is much lower than Hong Kong and some client are blessed being a citizen of a country with a decent Medical Healthcare system provided or regulated by the state (often an European country).

Hopefully the travel restrictions will be lifted in the coming year(s) and we think International travels will come back albeit not in the same volume as before the lock down. The world is still an international place and with the help of Technology people are not restricted to leave one country in on go to work to that one office there. As an insurance broker we’ll keep promoting the International Medical Insurance policies to provide that extra flexibility for our clients to be able to set-up their leave where they want.

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  • Ingrid Nell

    December 2, 2021 - 12:07 am

    Thanks Litai. You always have super useful advice on all aspects of insurance. So reliable. Thanks!

  • Mark Winstanley

    December 2, 2021 - 12:43 am

    Litai a very timely message, thank you, I think several people I know could benefit from this

  • Mark Winstanley

    December 2, 2021 - 12:44 am

    Very timely advice, thanks Litai

  • Benny Tang

    December 2, 2021 - 1:44 am

    Good piece of advice regarding international Medical Insurance.
    I am just wondering if one individual has a life policy attached with medical, what will happen to that if they leave Hong Kong.

  • Janus Chan

    December 8, 2021 - 3:05 am

    Very helpful advice, Litai. Totally agree that we need to well prepare earlier for the insurance as we do not know how our health condition going to change. With personally experience, It’s definitely a nightmare when the insurance company put on exclusion/add premium due to the pre-conditions.

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