If you plan to spend up to six months in Greece you should either take out a travel policy, a special long-stay policy or an international health policy, which should cover you in your home country and when travelling in other countries. Note that premiums vary considerably and it’s important to shop around.
Most international health policies include repatriation or evacuation (these may be optional), which may also include shipment (by air) of the body of a person who has died abroad to his home country for burial. Note that an international policy also allows you to choose to have non-urgent medical treatment in the country of your choice.
Most international insurance companies offer health policies for different areas, e.g. Europe, world-wide excluding North America, and world-wide including North America.
Most companies offer different levels of cover, for example, basic, standard, comprehensive and prestige levels of cover. There’s always an annual limit on the total annual medical costs, which should be at least €300,000 (although many provide cover of up to €1.2 million), and some companies also limit the fees for specific treatment or care, such as specialists’ fees, operations and hospital accommodation. A medical examination isn’t usually required for international health policies, although pre-existing health problems are excluded for a period, e.g. one or two years.
Claims are usually settled in major currencies and large claims are usually settled directly by insurance companies (although your choice of hospitals may be limited). Always check whether an insurance company will settle large medical bills directly, because if you’re required to pay bills and claim reimbursement from an insurance company, it can take several months before you receive your money (some companies are slow to pay). It isn’t usually necessary to translate bills into English or another language, although you should check a company’s policy. Most international health insurance companies provide emergency telephone assistance.
The cost of international health insurance varies considerably depending on your age and the extent of cover. Note that with most international insurance policies, you must enrol before you reach a certain age, e.g. between 60 and 80, to be guaranteed continuous cover in your old age.
Premiums can sometimes be paid monthly, quarterly or annually, although some companies insist on payment annually in advance. When comparing policies, carefully check the extent of cover and exactly what is included and excluded from a policy (often this is indicated only in the very small print), in addition to premiums and excess charges.
In some countries, premium increases are limited by law, although this may apply only to residents of the country where a company is registered, and not to overseas policyholders. Although there may be significant differences in premiums, generally you get what you pay for and can tailor premiums to your requirements.
The most important questions to ask yourself are: does the policy provide the cover required and is it good value for money? If you’re in good health and are able to pay for your own out-patient treatment, such as visits to your family doctor and prescriptions, then the best value may be a policy covering only specialist and hospital treatment.