Which countries have the most expensive health insurance for expats?

Angus Kidman 22 September 2016

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If you're moving to Dubai or Hong Kong, prepare to pay up big.

Complaining about the cost of private health insurance is Australia's national sport. It's not entirely unjustified; premiums this year went up by an average of 5.59%.

However, there's one reliable way to make health insurance even more expensive: move overseas to work. Health insurance is generally pricier for non-citizens than citizens, and some countries turn out to draw a lot more fiscal blood than others.

The 2016 Cost of International Health Insurance Report from Pacific Prime provides a useful summary of just how much you'll end up paying if you accept that lucrative international posting. The table below shows the annual average cost (in US dollars) for the 20 most expensive countries (the full list includes 22 as there are five tied in 18th position):

RankCountryUSD annual cost
1US$17,335
2HongKong$11,780
3China$10,881
4Canada$10,870
5Singapore$10,452
6Dubai$10,213
7Israel$10,110
8Russia$9,538
9UK$9,458
10Mexico$9,380
11Grenada$9,315
12DominicanRepublic$9,229
=13Australia$9,185
=13NewZealand$9,185
15Brazil$9,098
16Greece$9,011
17Japan$8,988
=18Chile$8,879
=18Argentina$8,879
=18CostaRica$8,879
=18Colombia$8,879
=18Peru$8,879

It's not surprising that the US is the most expensive location, and there is a massive difference between it and second-placed Hong Kong, but it is seeing increasing competition from other markets. Dubai jumped up from 14th to 8th on the rankings in the space of a year.

The quoted figure for expats working in Australia is US$9185. On today's exchange rate, that translates to around $12,173. How much more expensive is that than for locals?

Analysis by finder.com.au earlier this year suggested that a typical basic health insurance plan would cost around $767.48 a month, which totals up to $9209.76 over a year. So there's clearly an expat premium in play, though the policies are different enough that we shouldn't make too much of the comparison.

Australians are not as healthy as we think we are, so if you do move overseas, skimping on health insurance isn't wise. And wherever you're looking, shop around.

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears Monday through Friday on finder.com.au.

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