Medical Bills and Health Insurance When Teaching English Abroad

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Quite rightly, a common concern expressed by new ESL teachers is what might happen to them if they got ill when teaching English abroad. What kind of medical treatment would be available and who would pay the hospital bills? The answers to these questions depends on where you are teaching and the employment contract that you have been able to negotiate.

Some schools and language centres include health insurance as part of their standard package. If you are about to sign a contract for twelve months make sure that you enquire about this as early as possible. If the school is managed by a governmental department then the chances of national health insurance is much higher. Indeed, you may be required to pay a small sum (less than $50) into state health insurance on a monthly basis.

Standard language centre franchises often allow a certain amount of money to be available to cover medical costs. However, this money usually only becomes available after your treatment when you hand over the original medical bills. The other crucial point to note here is that the sum of money may only really cover very basic treatment for a common illness such as influenza. This is of little use if you have a serious condition and need expensive treatment, especially if you are asked to pay for treatment in advance. For example, a medical allowance of $300 (USD) per year is, as the saying goes, better than nothing, but it is of very limited use. It may pay for you to have a painful wisdom tooth extracted but it will not help you if something more serious happens.

Looking across the world’s regions in broad terms, jobs in both Asia and Europe are very much a mixture of those providing health insurance and those not providing it. In Latin America it is highly unlikely you will be offered any kind of insurance as part of your terms of employment. And in the Middle East, health insurance is standard for positions in Gulf States such as UAE and Saudi Arabia but much less likely in less developed nations including Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and so on.

If the medical allowance or health insurance cover is limited, it is recommended that you look into buying your own health insurance in addition to whatever your employer is willing to provide. Sometimes, decent medical insurance can be found locally but in many cases it is better to purchase it before you arrive if you can find a good deal.

If you are working on a Student Visa or Working Holiday Visa in Europe then you will need to show proof of your own, independent health insurance at the time of application. STA Travel in both the UK and USA is a popular choice but we recommend that you do some price comparisons first to check that you are getting a good deal. As with all of these kinds of things, read the small-print very carefully and do not sign up until you are satisfied with the policy.

Qualified English teachers please register with World of TEFL and we will contact you with relevant vacancies as they come in.


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