Nagging Health Problems and No Health Insurance

healthclaimform6642790Whether or not you’re dealing with a health issue, an attractive benefit of any International School Contract is health insurance–especially if it’s a comprehensive policy! My last insurance included worldwide coverage with just a $100 deductible. That’s a super perk considering that while back in the States one summer I had my shoulder repaired for only the cost of the deductible.

But what do you do when you have health issues or need emergency care and your new school’s health insurance policy has failed to materialize? We transplanted the following letter from the ISR Forum. It outlines a thought-provoking ‘personal health vs. insurance’ situation. We don’t have all the details but the poster does tells us his school knew of his health issues and his need for insurance prior to signing on.

“I began working at my school in July. In my contract it states that I will receive health insurance after I obtain my work visa. I foolishly assumed I would get a work visa soon after arriving.  This has not been the case. There are teachers who have been at the school more than a semester and who still have no health insurance. I also found out (or at least I’ve been told) that the school has already met the limit of employees who may receive work visas.

I have health issues and the prescriptions here run me more than $300 a month. I met with the school’s director about the issue and let him know that I could not afford to pay this amount for my prescriptions (salaries at the school are very low and living costs are high in this country). He confirmed that it might be quite some time before I receive medical coverage. He never got back to me. Yesterday I received a contract offer from a school whose salary and benefits are more in line with what I’m used to with international schools. I will have health insurance (and a paid apartment) immediately upon my arrival.

The school seems to genuinely want to help students of all means, although it can also be said that the school does not give equal concern to the teachers. I doubt that they could do anything to me legally, but I guess that I’m looking for affirmation that I have a right to just up and leave. If I end up in the hospital for any reason here in this country, I face financial ruin.

ISR wants to know what our readers’ take is on this situation. Would you have advised this poster to arrive with 3 months’ worth of prescriptions and a means to get more through whatever channels he/she was using prior to going overseas? Should the school have been more upfront about the insurance situation?  As insurance policies are a major benefit, should they definitely be in place if offered in a contract? Additionally, since insurance policies, unless restricted to just local use, are normally provided through Western insurance companies, is the idea that a work visa is needed to secure such a policy suspect? Should the school have changed its insurance procedures so all teachers would be immediately covered? At what point does a school become responsible for their teachers’ personal needs?

10 thoughts on “Nagging Health Problems and No Health Insurance

  1. I worked at a school in Ningbo, China for two years where despite being WASC accredited, only medical insurance coverage offered was within China at certain low standard local hospitals. If teachers wanted to go to a credible medical center only 40% of expenses would be reimbursed. You never know when you might have a serious accident of illness. Either get your own coverage if the school’s in insufficient or don’t take a job with a school that doesn’t care about its employees health.


  2. I am now over 60 and my last three schools all provided good health insurance with” pre-exsisting conditions ignored”from arrival in the country . I believe these group policies are generally offered to large schools as most employees over 40 are likely to have, or have had, some pre-exsisting conditions or chronic conditions. These, often easily treated or controlled, such as asthma,will otherwise be excluded from medication or treatment.
    Beware of policy clauses in small print referring to “illness related to pre-exsisting conditions”! Always check carefully before accepting a contract. Ask for the name of the provider,date of commencement and level of cover. It can then be reveiwed at leisure online. Private insurance is EXPENSIVE. If you take that route read all the small print re exclusions like certain sports, employment vs holiday etc.
    However I DO always arrive with at least 3 months of prescription medicine as in many developing places that medication may not be available, however good the insurance policy is.
    I would advise the teacher in question to leave if contractual conditions have not been met and be honest with any new employer.


  3. Choose your school carefully. Rarely do schools accept people with existing medical conditions that could entail large bills. The international school carousel is a gamble but choosing accredited schools (CIS) where certain standards have to be met gives you the possibility to question such issues as medical insurance. Having worked overseas for 32 years I recommend World Nomads regardless of what medical insurance the school offers! Have your own personal insurance! World Nomads are very good and from personal experience they have always covered medical expenses incurred, both large and small.


    1. World Nomads policies do NOT cover pre-existing conditions, or new conditions related to them……..


  4. Unless someone is lucky enough to be at a top international school with a good benefits package it can be very difficult to live overseas with medical conditions that require frequent attention and constant medication.

    Medical conditions, standard of care, and availability of medicine vary widely from country to country.

    For an employer that does not deliver what they promise you can break contract but how will you explain it to the next school in a way that maintains your marketability as a serious candidate?

    If you say the employer did not provide me health insurance coverage the thinking of the potential employer may be, “I don’t want to hire someone who is sick because they may miss a lot of work or drive up the costs of our health insurance plan.” So then how do you explain leaving the current job?

    Of course you can always say the current employer did not deliver what they promised but once again it makes the employee look like a complainer or perhaps someone who is rather mercenary in their approach. Not giving the reason can leave the potential employer with a wild imagination.

    In today’s market, flooded with good quality candidates from English speaking countries whose economies are in recession, finding an international job at a quality school can be exceedingly tough.

    Unless one is young, attractive, and well credentialed it is really a buyer’s market for teachers, meaning the employer has a lot of power over us. 15 years ago there were not enough international teachers and it was an easier marketplace.


    1. >>For an employer that does not deliver what they promise you can break contract but how will you explain it to the next school in a way that maintains your marketability as a serious candidate?

      Say that the previous employer violated their contractual obligations in many ways, one of which was not providing all employees with a work visa. Don’t mention healthcare at all.

      If a prospective employer is spooked because the person they’re considering will leave if the school doesn’t have the wherewithall to provide their foreign hires with a visa, then they probably weren’t worth working for to begin with.


  5. Nomad travel may offer insurance, but buyer beware- with any policy read the fine print. I was caught out with this company. The basic cover may be cost effective, but don’t assume your claims will be honoured.


  6. If the stated benefits don’t materialise I’d have no qualms about leaving if I wanted to, but I’d be weighing it against how much I was enjoying the post, personal health, and need for excellent references.


  7. When I went to China to teach in 2008, I was already 70 years old, but in excellent health. Health insurance was supposed to be part of the package, but never materialized. The following year, the new principal pressed for that insurance. The regular carrier declined, covering only teachers 60 and under. The school reluctantly purchased a more expensive policy – with almost no real benefits. I would have been better off without it. When my contract was up for renewal, the administration declined to offer me a new contract. I suspect that part of the reason was the “inconvenience” of the “special” insurance. In fairness, Chinese government efforts to oust older teachers was a major factor. ###


  8. I am usually able to travel with months worth of my medication, and recommend this because you never know how easy it will be in a new country.

    In my most recent international contract, I noticed my contract did not offer health insurance during my probation (3 months). Before agreeing to sign I recommended a travel insurance package to the owner, and it was accepted. (I worked in a country where visas take some time to arrange after arrival.) I arranged and paid for it, and the cost was quickly reimbursed. There may be other companies that do this but I found Nomad Travel was one of the few where insurance does not have to be renewed from point of departure and return (but it allows you to be repatriated to your home country), and the basic cover is cost effective.


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