Maternity cover under international private medical insurance

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  • Most international private medical insurance (PMI) plans include maternity cover.
  • Typical offerings in maternity cover include scans, pre-natal and immediate post-natal check-ups, and childbirth.
  • Maternity cover is offered in low-, middle- or high-level packages that cover from £5,000 to £10,000 of the standard costs.

Having a baby abroad can be expensive, so international private medical insurance must offer adequate cover, says Jennifer Paterson

Morning sickness, bizarre food cravings and premature contractions can make preparing for childbirth a stressful time. Add in living as an expatriate in a country with unfamiliar healthcare and concerns about an employer’s maternity cover, and stress levels could spike considerably.

Anyone who is planning to start a family must be aware of what is on offer, whether they are a female expatriate or the partner of an expatriate employee.

A typical UK private medical insurance (PMI) plan does not include maternity cover because this is covered by the NHS. However, most international healthcare policies will have some form of routine maternity cover built in. Steve Desborough, senior consultant at Towers Watson, says: “International maternity plans are more robust in terms of the benefits that are offered compared to UK medical plans, simply because there is not often a fall-back, or state-wide, healthcare system like we get through the NHS.”

Normal pregnancy costs

Standard maternity cover through international PMI includes the costs associated with a normal pregnancy, such as scans, pre-natal and immediate post-natal check-ups, childbirth, medically-necessary caesarians, and investigation into infertility.

Employers can choose to offer differing levels of cover. A low-level scheme might cover £5,000 of these costs, while a middle-to-high level would cover £10,000 of costs. Peter Mills, director of Glasslyn Health Solutions, says: “An international policy is usually three or four times more expensive each year. One of the reasons is that staff are entitled to coverage throughout the world.”

How international PMI benefits are offered also differs around the globe. Teresa Rogers, international sales and marketing manager at Aviva, says: “Some products come with a waiting period, so staff cannot claim for maternity care straightaway.”

To determine what maternity cover should be included in an employee’s PMI scheme, a provider will find out where that staff member will be based and then determine the costs associated with a pregnancy in that region. Sarah Dennis, international healthcare director at Jelf Employee Benefits, says: “In somewhere like Singapore, it is really expensive. The hospitals sell what is classed as a maternity package, and [firms] can buy different levels that cover scans, the birth, all the treatment afterwards, any complications, and a private room. Or they could buy a semi-private room and just the birth is covered. We take all that into account.”

Add-ons to policies

Policies may also include add-ons, such as: midwife fees, private hospital room fees and in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatments. US plans will typically cover IVF, but European plans will not. James Berkeley, director at Berkeley Burke and Co, says: “There is a marked difference between the philosophy that will apply in North America versus the philosophy that will apply in the UK, in Western Europe or in the Middle East.”

Fertility treatment is not typically included in international PMI.

Maternity cover will vary widely between employers and countries, so it is important staff know what is available. Dennis adds: “For some [organisations] it is a luxury and for others an expense. It can add 10% to premiums, so if [an employer] knows it has people starting families, it has to have it because the cost of having babies around the world can be expensive.”

Read more about international benefits