Evaluating Local Health Options

Vantovyjj most, the bridge in Krasnoyarsk, Russia, view from the left bank.

Vantovyjj most, the bridge in Krasnoyarsk, Russia, view from the left bank.

A country’s local health system is going to look more or less like the one back home; the main variations will be in quality and how some of the bureaucratic details are set up (as in the previous post). Here we’ll just do a quick rundown of things to consider about any given national public system, the private care on offer, and how the locals manage the costs (i.e., insurance).

National Public Health Systems:

Many countries have universal, free (or essentially free) health care systems.

The main advantages are that:

  • it’s free (or close to it, anyway) and
  • it can treat any condition. (In some places private care is not set up, for a variety of reasons, to handle serious issues.)

The main disadvantages are that:

  • in many places you get what you pay for (i.e., not much)
  • you have to check the rules about accessing the system, in case you are a tourist, or are not enrolled in the system, etc. Will they save your life in an emergency? Yes, like everywhere, but in less extreme situations someone might ask questions. Most of the time it’s not a big deal and the doctor will see you anyway – the rules are a pain for them as well.

Local Private Health Systems

Here the concept is simple. Pay for the service. The advantage here is that you are on the free market and have a better chance of getting good service.

Things to watch out for:

  • It may not handle serious issues as above.
  • Like with any service, mileage may vary. Caveat emptor.

National Private Health Insurance

The concept is simple – a way for nationals to manage the cost of private insurance – but the details can get complicated and it is necessary to check out how the policies co-exist in real life with the national public and private systems.

Generally speaking some positive points are that they:

  • can be less expensive than international insurance options
  • are usually regulated more closely by the national government, reducing wriggle room for the benefit clauses
    Local health reconnaissance checklist for newbies

When you put boots on the ground, or even before, try to:

  • gather general intel from other expatriates (and this site)
  • observe the local friendlies; if they are using private care as opposed to public you probably should too
  • ask a local medic, most of them speak a little English at least
  • find a local health insurance broker who can guide you

The main point of the reconnaissance is to get enough information to weigh the local options against the international options. More on this to follow in the next post.

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