Having the right international private healthcare is sometimes associated with emergency situations, such as evacuation from the middle of a jungle, life threatening cases of Malaria or major heart surgery on the other side of the world. The policyholder tells the story with a sense of relief, that he or she had the right cover at the right time. The truth is, the majority of health claims reflect the general day-to-day health problems people suffer from in their everyday lives, although being abroad can exacerbate certain conditions. Leading expatriate international private health insurer MediCare International looked at the top types of claims from the past two years, to find out which conditions were more prevalent than others.
The results not only reflect the most common complaints, but the fact that being in a new and different environment can also have an impact on one’s health. The most common ailment is back problems. Back pain is extremely common – about four in five people are affected at some point in their lifetime. Anyone can get back pain, but it’s most common in people between the ages of 35 and 55 or over.
Carrying heavy cases, travelling on long haul flights, or sleeping in a different bed, can all bring on this type of pain, so it’s no wonder that pain relief is sought in whichever country policy holders are in. The second most common ailment claimed for by policyholders is respiratory infections. This includes influenza, which can be brought on by being in new surroundings and picking up viruses, which the individual has no or little resistance to. Why is this more common when travelling or living in a new place? Air travel can be the perfect breeding ground for respiratory infection together with higher levels of pollution on congested streets, all of which makes for poor air quality. Number three on the list, are gastro/abdominal problems. The days of Spanish tummy seem long gone now, in an age when frequent travel is commonplace.
However, as with air quality, unfamiliar germs and bacteria can play havoc with a person’s digestive system, if they are unlucky. More serious problems such as dysentery are still commonplace for visitors to India for example, if precautions are not taken. Even then, it is almost impossible to safeguard oneself from these types of illnesses. Fourth on the list is cancer. According to the World Health Organization, cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for 7.6 million deaths in 2008, with the number dying from the disease projected to rise to over 11 million in 2030. The types of cancer costs covered by some but not all international health insurance would typically be diagnosis, drugs and treatment costs.
Asthma and Bronchitis are fifth on the list. As with respiratory problems, both conditions are exacerbated by poor quality air, new environments, or simply failing to treat existing health problems. Chronic care costs such as these might not be covered by some insurers, but MediCare International policies do cover these ongoing costs, so asthma sufferers, for example, can receive the appropriate drugs, should their condition worsen when abroad.
Hypertension is the sixth most common ailment. This would cover depression, which affects 121 million people worldwide, according to WHO. Anti depressant medication has become an increasingly commonplace as an effective way to combat this condition.
Knee problems are next on the list. This can be caused by sports injuries, being overweight, and also be a symptom of arthritis. Medical costs would not only include pain relief, but physiotherapy to improve the condition, so again, it is important to ensure policies cover all of these areas. Eczema and skin conditions are also commonplace for those seeking medical treatment abroad. Often new environments, stress or exposure to new substances can aggravate eczema, and the physical effects of the sun for example, can lead to extreme sun burn for some people, if skin is not properly protected. Finally, urinary tract infections are also common when abroad. The problem can be exacerbated by hot weather or sometimes sexually transmitted diseases. Both women and men can be affected by these complaints and will need to seek help from the local doctor to clear up any infection.
Debbie Purser, Managing Director at Medicare International said: “People often associate private healthcare with medical emergencies. The truth is, the most common conditions reflect everyday living difficulties which can be exacerbated whilst abroad, whilst others are conditions which are often brought about from the effects of travel and simply being in new environments. What is striking, though, is the proportion of these complaints which have a chronic aspect to them – back pain, cancer, respiratory, skin complaints – all of these can require ongoing treatment, something we at MediCare International cover as part of our chronic care benefit. We pride ourselves in providing the best possible care for our policyholders, whether it’s a new, curable condition or something which requires longer term treatment.”
MediCare International provides healthcare cover for clients of over 86 nationalities in over 114 countries. With over 25 years’ experience, it is one of the leaders in the field for both individual and group cover and direct staff schemes, with group rates available on three lives or more.
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