Maternity Insurance Tips for U.S. Expats

Having a baby abroad can be a challenging and costly event. Maternity insurance is often overlooked by expats, but it is worth thinking about even if pregnancy is off your radar. The reason: you cannot purchase fully comprehensive maternity coverage once you are pregnant! Most expat policies require you to get insured a year before getting pregnant. Talk about family planning!

That means if you get pregnant then want to purchase insurance to cover all the bills, you’re out of luck. No insurance will pick you up. It’s almost like trying to purchase medical insurance after you break your arm to pay for surgery. For this reason, there are a few things to consider if you plan on having a baby abroad:

Get Maternity Coverage Before You Conceive

As mentioned above, 12 months is the benchmark. So if you’re thinking about having a child even a few years down the line, it’s probably smart to secure a policy today to ensure you’re protected in the future. Also remember your insurance policy from home probably won’t cover you abroad, so you cannot carry it over to a foreign country to help cover this 12-month waiting period. (For related reading, see: Is My Health Insurance Good Abroad?)

Hospitals Cost More for Expats

You’ll most likely want to give birth in a modern hospital that caters to expats. I live in Shanghai—an advanced city with top-of-the-line medical facilities—but nearly all of my non-local clients who’ve given birth here choose foreign-based clinics that practice Western medical procedures. The only problem with these institutions is they’re much more expensive. Even if you reside in a developed country, the costs could still be much higher than what they’d be back in the States if you’re not a citizen of that country. 

Consider Extra Pregnancy Costs When Getting Coverage

Even the most problem-free pregnancies involve pre-natal regular check-ups, and a straightforward birth will require at the very least a hospital room and basic midwifery care. If things don’t go according to plan, complications requiring an obstetrician, a C-section or post-natal care for the mother and/or the newborn can greatly increase costs.

Insurance Coverage

Some policies have a maximum coverage limit, meaning anything over that limit must be paid for by you. It is impossible to predict how well your pregnancy will go, so it’s advisable to take out a high-quality policy to avoid paying more. It’s your baby and your pregnancy, it’s not the time to cut cost.

However, keep in mind that premiums can sometimes be lowered with deductibles and co-insurance. This is when you split the cost of treatment with the insurance company. For example, a 10% co-insurance plan means the insurance company covers 90% of the cost and you only pay 10%. Speak with your IFA to find the perfect balance for you and your wallet.

Unforeseen Complications

Unfortunately, life can be unforgiving at times, and the worst-case scenario does happen. This really hits home for me as well, since a family member very close to me had a stillbirth while living abroad in the Orient. Every year in the U.S. about 25,000—68 babies every day—are stillborn; that’s about one in every 115 births. It was a traumatizing event, something you’d never wish upon your worst enemy, but luckily she did have a solid expat insurance plan in place. While nothing will bring her baby back, the insurance policy definitely made things a bit easier and definitely more affordable.

As you can see, there is much to consider when having a baby abroad, so always err on the side of caution and think about that insurance before the stork makes a special delivery.

(For more from this author, see: Life Insurance Challenges for U.S. Expatriates.)