Should You Purchase a Hack Proof Wallet Before Your Trip?

In case your not aware, the newest way for thieves to get your money is to simply stand behind you and point a scanner at your wallet.  In fact, at the Defcon hacker conference in Las Vegas earlier this year, an Android software app called NFCProxy was introduced that can read data from contactless credit cards.

A number of popular models of Android phones now come enabled with technology intended to allow for mobile payments with platforms like Google Wallet.  But unfortunately, the savvy hacker can turn the technology intended to allow for mobile payments into a mobile card scanner.

In fact, they tested the app right on stage by using a Nexus S phone to read the hosts own contactless Visa card onstage, which was in his wallet, inside his pocket.  The presenter then used the phone to relay the data a moment later to a point-of-sale device, where it was accepted as a payment.   In a matter of minutes, he was able to steel his own credit card information and make a purchase.

More than 100 million contactless credit cards are currently in circulation.  Brands like PayPass, Zip, payWave, and ExpressPay by Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express, are susceptible.   So combining vulnerable credit cards with cell phone technology that can scan those credit cards, pick pocketing has never been easier.

The Good News

The good news is that a wallet with a piece of metal that blocks your credit cards stops the scanners from working.  There are several companies on the market today offering hack proof wallets such as Identity Stronghold or Magellan’s.   If your really handy, you can make your own hack proof wallet!

Don’t Let This Happen To You

Although the costs of health care in Mexico are significantly less expensive than in the U.S. or Canada, if something major happens to you internationally and you find yourself in a hospital, costs can add up quickly.  As an expat living in Mexico, I have seen the importance of having international major medical insurance first hand.

As a licensed insurance agent, the first thing I get asked is, “How much is it?”.   Typically, as soon as they hear the dollar amount, their reaction is either, “Well, I have gone this long without international insurance” or “Is there anything cheaper?”

There are two things wrong with this reasoning:  1)  Without your health, you will not be able to live the dream you have worked so hard to create and 2)  With this in mind, isn’t your health worth more than any THING you can buy?

I want to share this real life story that happened in Quintana Roo, Mexico not too long ago:

On a typical day in the tropics, warm and sunny, my friend set out on Hwy 307 towards Tulum with her boyfriend and her two children.  The trip to Tulum was going to be a mixture of business and pleasure that included stopping into shops to pick up money and then going to the beach to play.   It was her boyfriend’s birthday, so they were setting off to have a fun day.  The last thing my friend remembers on this trip is looking back at her children while en route to Tulum.

No one knows for sure what caused the auto accident, but her car ended up on the wrong side of the Hwy and rested against a utility pole.  The front end of the car was smashed.

Thankfully, the children, who were in the back seat, were unharmed.

It was a different story for the two adults in the front seats.  The driver had suffered a broken leg and my friend was unconscious.   As the driver got the children out of the car and out of harms way, he waited for help to arrive.  Passers by stopped to help and called 066, the Mexican 911.

My friend was not as lucky.  She was smashed up against the windshield with lacerations to her face and body from the broken glass and her femur and collarbone were broken.  She recalls opening her eyes and seeing her leg over her head and as thick blood dripped into her eyes, she fell back into unconsciousness.

The jaws of life arrived to remove my friend from the car.  An ambulance rushed them to the hospital and the hospital did indeed admit and stabilize them.   But as my friends lay in a state of shock, the doctors informed them of their injuries and what was going to be necessary to treat them.   The hospital also informed my friends of the cost of the surgeries and that they needed payment up front before they would be preformed.   This policy is typical in Mexico.

The cost for the surgeries was going to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $15,000.00.  Although that cost is significantly less than it would have been in the U.S. or Canada, with the little savings they had and the balances left on their credit cards, there was not enough to cover the surgeries.

As word got out into the community of the accident, support arrived at the hospital to take care of the children.  It did not take long to discover the seriousness of the accident and the predicament my friends were in.  The only thing that could be done was done:  The community jumped to action and raised donations.  The donations came in, however,  it took one week before enough money was raised and the surgeries could be preformed.

That accident was almost a year ago and she is still healing.  The community still supports her to keep her children fed, clothed and in school.  It has been a very long year for her family but they are all thankful to be alive and together.  As my friend continues to heal, she is becoming more and more independent and life is slowly returning to normal.

So think about this:

Isn’t your health and safety worth more than anything else you can think of?  You have worked so hard to build the life you have always wanted, do not cheat yourself by trying to save money on your health.  Protect yourself and your family and get what you deserve.  Health insurance is not free, but it is less expensive than an unexpected accident or a critical illness you never saw coming.

Be careful of health plans that seem a little too cheap.   Credible insurance agencies have to be able to pay claims and stay in business, so if a quote comes in at half the price of another plan, there is probably a good reason.  Watch out for “Dread Disease” or “Accident Only” policies.  Although these seem like a good deal, you never know what your future holds, and a good policy will encompass both.

Our major medical policy may not be the cheapest policy available today, but it is the best coverage you can get for your money….and that gives expats peace of mind.


Price Isn’t Everything When Choosing A Health Care Policy

With so many different international health care policies available today, it can be difficult to pick out the best policy for your health care needs.  In combination with all of the different insurance companies offering insurance, there are also many different health care plans to choose from.

There are a few important factors to consider before you purchase your next international health care policy:

Price Isn’t Everything

The cheapest policy may not provide you the best coverage.  It is not possible for one insurance company to offer the exact same coverage for less than half the cost of another insurance company.  Often times, you are not comparing apples to apples.  If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

The benefits offered, and more importantly, the benefits that may be excluded, can make a big difference in your costs and the quality of care you get if you become injured or  ill.  Some of the products out there look and sound like health insurance, but actually do not provide comprehensive health insurance coverage.  Here are a few to watch out for:

“Dread Disease” Policies

“Dread Disease” policies pay only for costs related to stated, specific diseases, such as cancer.   This is very dangerous coverage as none of us know what kind of disease we may be hit with in the future.  Unless you have a crystal ball telling you what you what illnesses you are going to contract in the future, it’s best to have comprehensive coverage.  In fact, some states in the U.S. have banned the sale of “Dread Disease” policies and in 2014, under Obamacare, all policies must include a range of health care coverages.

“Accident Only” Policies

“Accident Only” policies pay only for care you need as a result of an accident that isn’t due to illness.  The reason the premiums are so low on these policies is that it will only cover accidents and not illness.  A good comprehensive policy will cover costs associated with accidents and  illness, so accident only policies are not a good value.

“Discount” Plans

“Discount” plans are not health insurance and therefore are unregulated by  insurance regulatory agencies.  Today, some state insurance regulators and attorney generals have issued alerts warning people not to purchase discount medical plans.   The reasons for this are that they do not protect you from high medical expenses and reports have been made to their claim payment history, not offering the discounts represented.

“Stacked” Policies

“Stacked” policies are where insurers combine products, or stack them together, to patch together a comprehensive health care policy.  However, an accident only policy combined with a dread disease policy may sound similar to comprehensive health care coverage, but it isn’t.

To be sure that you will be covered no matter what health care emergencies come your way, it’s best to pay for comprehensive, major medical health care coverage for the protection you deserve.  Protect the dreams you have worked so hard to build, don’t cut corners on your health.

Have A Health Care Ally While Traveling Abroad

Our International Major Medical Insurance is designed for individuals or families who live or work abroad, contract employees and people with dual residencies.  As long as you reside outside your home country for 6 months a year or longer, you qualify.

Your Own Medical Concierge

One of the best and unique services our international major medical insurance provides is the Medical Concierge Program.  With this program, a customer care representative will help you locate a physician or health care facility anywhere in the world when it matters the most.  Customer care representatives are available to you no matter what time of day or night it is and there are never any vacations.  If you need help at 3:00 a.m. in Costa Rica on Christmas Eve due to extreme stomach cramps, we will be able to help you get to a health care facility quickly.

Our medical professionals will also work with your international doctor or surgeon to coordinate your care.  We will take the worry out of translation issues as we communicate directly with your international doctor and stay with you from diagnosis to billing.

You also have 24 hour access to your information so that you can see the status of your claim.  Claim forms and medical receipts can be faxed or emailed directly from the hospital or your hotel.

Having an ally while you are abroad is vital in a medical crisis.




Selecting A Major Medical Deductible

An international major medical health insurance policy is vital to making sure your medical expenses will be paid in case of catastrophic illness or emergency while living abroad.  However, how do you decide which is better: A low deductible with a high premium or a high deductible with a low premium?  Well, that depends on your ability to pay up front.

Your deductible is typically determined by the amount of premium you pay monthly for your insurance policy.  A policy with a higher deductible will typically have a lower monthly insurance premium because a policy holder will have to pay more up front in order for the full insurance benefits to kick in.  A low deductible plan will often have high insurance premiums to pay monthly.

Resist the temptation to lower your premium by selecting a plan that cuts major benefit categories.  There are no bargains in health insurance.   An insurance company capable enough to cover the policy holder’s medical needs has to collect enough money to do that. The only safe way to lower your premium is to get a plan with a higher deductible.

Instead, lower your premium by opting for a higher deductible (say $5,000 rather than $2,500), a higher out-of-pocket limit (say $20,000 rather than $10,000), or both.  Although this mean that in years when you’re healthy, you might get little or no benefit from your policy, it is vital protection against financial catastrophe in the years with high medical bills.

To offset the high deductible, open a savings account specifically to cover your medical deductible along with any missed income due to illness or accident.   Also, to decrease your premium, annual payments as opposed to monthly payments can save you almost 2 full months of premium as monthly payments typically have administrative fees tacked on.

Is A High Deductible Major Medical Policy Right For You?

Many people planning to retire abroad start saving for self insurance plans.  Although it’s good to have a reserve on hand, major medical expenses can run to such high totals that self-insurance isn’t a reasonable option even for the wealthy.   A high deductible major medical policy can be a good compromise.

Benefits of a Major Medical Policy

With typical, domestic health care policies, medical insurance pays a portion of medical bills, helping to make routine medical care more affordable.   HMO policy plans focus on paying all but the smallest amount of every procedure.

A major medical policy reverses the typical health care policy and pays for the excess expense of high priced procedures but covers little of the costs of routine visits and other inexpensive medical treatments.

The payout for a major medical policy begins when the chosen deductible amount has been met.   High deductible policies have deductibles in the thousands of dollars, meaning they pay for only the most expensive medical treatments. In exchange, the higher the deductible on a policy, the lower the premium payments.

Plan For Both

Combining an international, high deductible major medical policy with a health savings account is a great option for expats.   If you choose a $10,000.00 deductible, set that amount aside in an account specifically ear marked for health care and contribute what you can each month.   Although HSA’s are only available with domestic, US health plans, setting aside your deductible will offer you piece of mind during a medical crisis.