Insurance: Have you got it covered?

by  — 19 November 2012

Insurance cover cannot prevent the worst from happening, but it will provide expatriates some support if it does. It also offers peace of mind that you will not leave loved ones in the financial lurch writes Adrian Bliss.

We all need a certain level of insurance and expatriates are no exception, so it could pay in the long run to get into the habit of annually checking whether you have enough insurance cover in place. Also be mindful that existing life cover taken out may not be valid due to your relocation. Life cover has to be top of most expatriates’ essential policies. When determining the level of cover you need, you should check out what policies you have in place already. For example, you may have some cover from your employer, you might also find life cover included in another financial product – such as a mortgage or another investment. Once you have assessed what cover you already have, you can then plug any gaps.

Generally the level of cover you need to go for should be enough for your family to continue with their existing lifestyle and be debt free. So look at all your outgoings – future as well as existing. For example, if you have young children, remember to calculate for their school fees. The cheapest and most basic type of life cover is level term assurance. It pays a fixed and guaranteed lump sum if the person insured dies at any time during the term of the policy. The premiums can be either fixed or they can increase in line with inflation.

Another popular form of life cover is whole of life assurance. This will give a guaranteed pay out to your dependents at any time up until death occurs. This is a more expensive form of cover due to the guaranteed pay out, but can also be used in tax planning due to the investment element. Your premiums buy units in an investment fund offered by the insurance company. How much the policy grows will depend on how much is being deducted to pay for the whole of life cover.

Increasingly, expatriates are turning to critical illness cover, which is designed to replace your income should you suffer an illness leaving you unable to work for a certain period. Particular attention needs to be paid to terms and conditions the policy can and cannot pay out against, as well as the illnesses covered.
It is also worth bearing in mind that most insurance cover is designed to pay out so long as premiums are kept up without interruption. Also consider what options you have to pay premiums. What is the maximum level of cover you can opt for?

Another key area of insurance for all expatriates concerns medical and health cover. Those with a full residency permit in Qatar can apply for a Health Card, which entitles you to certain free treatment at health clinics. While this is subsidised by the government, expatriates can be charged when being referred on to a hospital consultant and for subsequent treatments.

To begin with, check whether you have private health insurance cover included in your remuneration package. If you have a family, double check what cover is extended to them. Be sure to find out whether the cover provides for a wide range of medical treatment or does it only swing into action in the event of an emergency hospitalisation?

Expatriates must pay close attention when selecting medical insurance. A good plan is to draw up a list of your family’s likely needs and check that the individual allowance for each treatment is in line with typical costs for treatments in Qatar.  Careful assessment of your needs is crucial to ensuring you end up with the right product and cover to suit your lifestyle.

Adrian Bliss is a senior financial consultant at Guardian Wealth Management Qatar

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