Majority of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) deployed abroad are in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) according to Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).
I worked in KSA for more than ten (10) years and my employer was required by the government to provide health insurance. This applies to private firms hiring expats.
Here are my tips on the use of health insurance for expats. Disclaimer: I am not an insurance expert but I am relating this to you based on my experience.
1. Always bring your health insurance card. Keep it on your wallet. Keep it available at any times, emergency occur when you least expect it. Better that you are ready.
2. Know your health insurance provider. Once, the company issued it to you, go through the manual and read it. For example, my health insurance card is from BUPA Middle East that has a wider coverage of accredited hospitals. Do not keep it on your cabinet and wait for next year.
3. Know your coverage limit. Health insurance provider sets a coverage limit agreed by your employer. For example, my limit is SR 250,000 maximum coverage. It means that all my health related expenses can be covered within the given amount. Unfortunately, I went overboard because of the medical procedures that I went through including the surgery.
4. Talk to your employer if the allowable coverage limit is reached already. Be honest to your employer and ask for help. I am thankful that my employer was kind enough to allocate additional funds. This sounds easy but it was not. My wife went through a lot of follow-up calls and stress.
5. Keep in touch with your HR team. Update them regularly. All approvals for your medical procedures are endorsed by them. Usually, for major medical procedures, the hospital will notify your insurance provider and justify why you need it, then they will check if it is within the allowable limit. The insurance provider will then contact your HR for permission if you can go ahead. If it’s ok, it’s good to go. Upon approval, Habib hospital sends an SMS to the patient.
6. Know your doctor. Is he an expert on your diagnosis? Did he handle the same case before? Is he a resident, a specialist or a consultant? Don’t be afraid to ask him about his credentials. Usually, attending nurses knows the right doctor. Seek for their recommendation. Your life lies in their hands. Be vigilant. They are the one who will justify the medical procedure before the health insurance approves it. Make sure that they are knowledgeable about your case.
7. Know the medical procedure. Some hospitals will require you medical procedure that you don’t need just to use your health insurance card. Ask your doctor about it and let him explain it to you. Be inform. Why Endoscopy, Biopsy, MRI, ERCP, PTC, PET & Ocreotide scans, Wipple Surgery, etc.? Research it also on google. Be a patient and a medical student at the same time. You’ll enjoy it. Trust me.
8. Look for second and third opinions. I was not able to do this due to my limitations. I did not regret it, but if you’ll have time and resources go for it. I did further research on PNet and majority of the available cases are in USA and in Europe. Advanced countries with better medical facilities and health experts.
My last tip, use your health insurance wisely. Even if you are not sick, avail the annual physical exam regularly. Visit also your dentist and ophthalmologist if it’s covered.
Take care of your health. Be proactive!