So you have finally realised that without proper health and medical insurance protection that you could be faced with a catastrophe if you became very sick or met with an accident.

Many people go through life thinking it will never happen to them. But it does, it happens every day to everyday people and so if you are one of the unlucky ones who have not woken up to the dangers you could be in a very precarious position and be putting you and your families at risk..

A simple example of this is dengue fever, which is common place in Myanmar. If you were unfortunate enough to become infected how would you cope, especially if it were to become serious? Many doctors can only offer basic treatment for this condition and then they will recommend that you seek specialist medical treatment elsewhere. So, can you afford medical evacuation? If it is part of a medical insurance benefits package much of the stress will be lifted from you or your loved ones in making arrangements.

Many will say that they are flummoxed ore even put off at the complexities of medical insurance. Taking time out to consider the permutations of what is available is all that’s needed to see the process through whereas many are tempted to place it in the “too hard” tray intending to get back to it later, or maybe tomorrow. But tomorrow never comes.

So, where to start: what to consider: how to go about all this?

There are a number of very basic choices you need to consider and evaluate.

First what geographical area do you want cover for? Living in Myanmar it is clear that cover should not only be for Myanmar but, at the very least, extend to neighbouring countries with first class medical facilities. Sometimes a medical evacuation could be necessary depending on what is wrong. There are four fundamental areas: inner Asia, outer Asia, worldwide excluding USA and worldwide including USA. The broader the area the more expensive your insurance will be. However, it is pointless choosing a narrow area if you needs stretch further.

Remember that there is a difference between emergency and elective treatment. Most insurance will cover you for emergency treatment outside your area of cover. So, for example. If I go to Europe for a holiday and my appendix bursts I will be covered for the cost of this emergency treatment. However, if I decide to have that knee operation I have needed for a year, in Paris, because I shall be there anyway, this is elective treatment and will not be covered if it is outside my geographical area of cover. So, I can rest easy with say cover for the outer Asia region knowing that I may choose a place to have treatment for almost anything and be covered anywhere for emergencies for limited periods of travel outside the area.

Next what type of cover should I opt for? The availability is generally split into four types. These are commonly known as bronze, silver, gold and platinum. As you might imagine the cover you may opt for gets wider as you progress though the categories. Bronze is usually cover for when you have to be admitted to hospital overnight as an inpatient. So, visits to the doctor and treatment in clinics will not be covered. It is usual, these days, that cancer treatment is covered even when treatment is provided by day care facilities. Also, if you need to have a day bed for a simple procedure this is often covered by your insurance.
Silver cover will give you some outpatient care when you make visits to the doctor. Gold progresses even further and will cover more progressive types of treatment and broader aspects like after care. Platinum will extend cover to maternity and some dental care.

Choosing the right type of cover and the correct area of coverage can be daunting but you really need to apply your personal circumstances and assimilate what you may need into these. For example do you make business trips all the time? If so it may be wise to broaden the geographical area of cover you decide to go for. Do you play “dangerous” sports? These will often be covered if you are not training or taking part in any professional capacity. Some underwriters can be more generous with their offer of cover so you may need to shop around a little. Are you very young? This usually means that you are relatively healthy and can go for the basic cover. If you are getting older the chances of your having a claim increase so higher cover options may be more desirable.

Next, the cost may be higher than you imagined. If so there is a way to can manage the premium a little by accepting part of the risk yourself. This is known as a deductible or excess. Thus if you say you will pay the first $250 or $500 of each and every claim then the insurance company will reduce the premium to reflect the fact that you are accepting some of the risk. Some wealthy individuals accept a very high excess because they could afford say $10,000 of treatment but an organ transplant would wipe them out. Taking the higher excess will drastically reduce their premium whilst giving them cover for very high value claims.

With these main aspects what do we have so far? The options you need to consider are:

In which country do I live?
It is essential that you have cover here

Do I need medical evacuation?
In most circumstances this is desirable. Most agree it is essential if you live in Myanmar

Do I regularly travel abroad and to where?
Best to make sure you have cover in these countries

Where do I need to have elective cover as compared with emergency cover?
This will help me to choose my geographical area of cover

What type of cover should I opt for? Answer these questions:
Do I play dangerous sports?
Maybe outpatient cover is best – silver

Are we a couple with possible plans for a family in the future?
If you can afford it platinum cover is a good idea as it covers maternity costs

Am I getting older?
If I can afford to take silver this is a good options as I can get outpatient cover for developing chronic conditions

Are we a family frequently travelling?
Silver is a good idea to cover all the unforeseen emergencies which can occur

Are we just an ordinary couple with a limited budget?
Probably bronze will give us adequate cover for what we need

How much can I afford to pay for each claim?
If I am running on a very tight budget then I may need to keep the excess low remembering this will increase the premium
If I can easily afford to pay for hefty initial costs then I can take advantage of the premium reduction a high excess will offer.

Are you beginning to build a picture of your circumstances and the options which apply to you? Then you are someway along the road toward tailoring your own medical insurance requirements. The next step is to find some insurance underwriters who will accept you and offer you personal medical insurance.

Remember that the options you feel are right for you need to be assimilated into the cover offered by the various international insurance companies. They all offer fixed options and some vary their conditions so choosing the right cover with the right company is the next step along the way. Currently there are no underwriters in Myanmar who offer this type of insurance. There are a number of international companies who offer residents in Myanmar international cover so you have the value of underwriters who have been offering these options for many years.

Andrew Wood is the executive director of PFS International. Questions may be directed to him, via PFS International at: [email protected]


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