Six reasons why international health insurance could give you peace of mind – now and in the future

In times of crisis, certain truths become ever more apparent. The rapid spread of the coronavirus across the world is a stark example of how quickly things can change and the value of being prepared for the unexpected.

Six reasons why international health insurance could give you peace of mind – now and in the future
Photo by Timur Romanov on Unsplash

Nobody can separate themselves from the ups and downs of life. But individuals and families face important decisions about how best to secure some peace of mind. Such choices may loom even larger for expats, as international insurance broker ASN understands.

Here are six reasons why international health insurance could give you greater peace of mind today and in the years to come:

1.     Feeling prepared

All insurance is about protecting against risks. Perceptions of risk change over time and sometimes the unexpected hits you without warning. ASN works with a wide range of insurance partners, many of whom offer coverage for pandemics, including the current coronavirus outbreak.

Find out more about ASN and its international network of insurance providers

Anyone diagnosed with coronavirus who has such a policy will be covered under the normal terms and conditions of their plan. Depending on your level of cover, this could include a full refund for in-patient hospital charges while being treated for COVID-19 or a significant hospital cash benefit.

2.    Personalised plans

Nobody looks forward to a hospital stay. But a bespoke insurance policy could make it easier by enabling you to choose which hospital you are treated in – and whether you will have a private room.

Most people infected with coronavirus simply need to self-isolate at home. But even the fit and healthy face a small risk of complications that require hospital treatment. Many of ASN’s partners work directly with hospitals on a case-by-case basis, building relationships and helping to curb medical inflation.

Photo: Adobe Stock

3.    Coverage beyond borders

The current crisis has led to unprecedented closures of international borders. Huge numbers of people have either been left stranded or facing difficult choices about whether to cancel travel plans.

Want quality health insurance coverage wherever you are? Find out more

Specialist international health insurance offers you more when you are abroad, whether as an emigrant or a frequent traveller. ASN can select insurance offering global coverage and access to a worldwide network of leading doctors and hospitals to choose from. You can also opt for a policy that offers medical evacuation and repatriation where necessary.

4.    Clear round-the-clock communication

Amid uncertainty and anxiety, clear communication from a trusted source that remains readily available can seem invaluable. Some insurance providers now offer member services 24/7 through contact options such as WhatsApp, phone hotlines and live chat. ASN support officers also remain available by email and phone during the pandemic. The company reminds everyone to follow safe practices outlined by the World Health Organization and to continue social distancing.

5.    Putting family first

Illness can be hugely disruptive to family life. If you suspect you have coronavirus, your first concern might be about the potential implications and impact for your family members. ASN has strong partnerships with providers that offer a wide choice of individual or family-based policies.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

One has already extended the claim submission period from six to nine months for members with COVID-19, so they can focus on recovering fully with support from their family. It has also pledged faster turnaround times for pre-authorisations of treatment and claims relating to COVID-19.

6.    Facing the future

Healthcare in the 21st century is changing. From ageing populations to the potential of highly personalised ‘precision medicine’, the sector is being reshaped by a range of powerful factors.

Choosing the right insurance policy for you requires careful consideration of both the present and the future. When you establish health insurance with ASN, you are guaranteed lifetime renewability regardless of age or health conditions. True peace of mind depends on taking care of tomorrow as well as today.

Visit ASN’s website now for more information on global health insurance solutions.

Conditions may apply.

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by Advisory Services Network.


Six things Canadians should know before moving to Italy

In some ways Canada and Italy couldn’t be more different. But you’ll find Italians can rival Canadians for their friendliness, writes Canadian journalist in Italy John Last.

Six things Canadians should know before moving to Italy

If you live in Canada, someday, you might just crack. For me, it happened after my fourth winter in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, waiting until June for the last snow and ice to melt. To hell with this, I thought. I’m moving to Italy.

Whether it’s the warm winters, the history, or just a love of pasta and pizza, there are plenty of reasons why you might want to follow me in trading the Great White North for la dolce vita. But as someone who’s made the switch, there’s a lot I wish I knew before I came.

READ ALSO: 15 things you might never need to get used to about living in Italy

So in that spirit, here are seven things Canadians should know before moving to Italy.

  • Know how (and where) you’ll stay

Newcomers to Italy are sorted into two broad buckets — EU citizens, and the rest of us. If, like me, you have a partner who is an Italian or EU citizen, you’ll be shocked at how relatively easy their process is for virtually every step of the move compared to those with no ties to the continent.

Before you quit your job and pack up your belongings, you’ll want to be sure Italy will even let you stay here in the first place. Canadians don’t generally need to apply for a tourist visa (yet) to enter Italy, but to stay for more than three months you will need to get a long-stay permit or permesso di soggiorno.

READ ALSO: The most essential pieces of paperwork you’ll need when moving to Italy

The process for getting your permesso di soggiorno is one of the biggest bureaucratic hurdles you will face, so it helps to do some research, know your plan, and be prepared for what is to come. (Fortunately, we have a complete guide to applying for a long-stay permit to help you out.)

This is true even if, like me, you are lucky enough to be married to an EU citizen. European bureaucracy, and immigration processes everywhere, are no joke, and organizing some documents when you’re already in Italy is nigh impossible. Save yourself expensive return flights to Canada and make sure your ducks are in a row before you leave.

When you do arrive, prepare to stay put for a while. You will generally need to stay in one town or region for the entire months-long process of securing your residency. Italy is a famously diverse country, so do some research to make sure you’re landing in a region that is right for you — if you change your mind, know that every move will come with the major headache of finding an apartment and updating your residency details.

  • Learn (at least some) Italian

When we arrived in Italy, I had four months of Duolingo under my belt — and I was grateful for it. Virtually no one I encountered over my first month in Padova spoke more than a few phrases in English. I’d more often encounter an Italian who heard I was Canadian and excitedly switched to French. Performing everyday tasks was helped immensely by knowing how to ask basic questions and understand simple answers in the local language.

If you’re a monolingual English Canadian like me, you’ll probably find it takes a couple of years to get comfortable holding a conversation in Italian. But don’t get discouraged! Knowing Italian is the key to unlocking the social life that makes Italy such a pleasant place to live, and to understanding the culture beyond just the tourist highlights.

READ ALSO: Five tips that make it easier to learn Italian

And if you’re shuddering at the memory of high school French classes, don’t fret. With its local dialects and adaptive style, Italian is a much more forgiving language than French, with less strict rules and simpler pronunciation. Outside of tourist hotspots, Italians are also often eager to practice what English they know, and rival Canadians for their friendliness.

  • Don’t plan on driving (for very long)

In Canada, we’ve all learned to measure distance almost exclusively by driving time. But like many places in Europe, driving is both less common and less necessary for everyday life in most Italian towns and cities.

In even a small city like Padova, there are ample transit routes and bike paths to make everyday commuting a breeze. And unlike Canada, where cars still reign supreme, these options are often also faster than traveling by car, which are restricted from driving into many Italian city centres.

When you’re traveling further afield, trains are often a much better choice than cars, with high speed rail connecting most major cities and regional trains covering the rest. Trains are cheap, drop you in the center of town, and don’t require you to find and pay for parking.

READ ALSO: Who needs to exchange their driving licence for an Italian one?

Of course, when you make an Ikea run or visit a historic borgo you might want to rent a car for a day. But beware — your Canadian license is only good for up to one year in Italy. You’ll also need to carry an international driving permit, issued by the CAA, in case you are stopped by police.

If you want to drive beyond that date, you’ll need to apply for an Italian permit, which means a road and theory test conducted entirely in Italian.

Vintage Italian Fiat and Vespa motorcycle

Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP
  • Get used to Italian food

Canada is known for its multiculturalism, and one big perk is the amazing world of international cuisines available in even the smallest Canadian cities. Even when I lived in the Northwest Territories, I could easily find Thai lemongrass, Ethiopian adobo, and Mexican serrano peppers at the nearest neighborhood grocery store.

But in Italy, it’s different. Living in Italy means loving Italian food — whether you want to or not.

Italian grocery stores simply do not have the international selections available in Canada. Even requests for common spices like coriander, herbs like dill, or ingredients like coconut milk will elicit confused, blank responses from Italian grocers. (And don’t even get me started on maple syrup, Kraft dinner, or my beloved Montreal-style bagels.)

READ ALSO: 17 ways your eating and drinking habits change when you live in Italy

Some of these ingredients can be found in local ethnic groceries and supermarkets which import them from abroad. But there is also something to be said for embracing the constraints imposed by Italian food culture.

Italian food is defined by simple, seasonal recipes for a reason. Instead of tearing your hair out at the supermarket, try exploring your local fruit or vegetable market and observing what is abundant, and when. Start buying seasonal ingredients, like agretti or chestnuts, and build your menu around them. You will soon find your diet becomes easy, cheap, healthy, and delicious.

Eventually, you might even find yourself building a relationship with your local greengrocer (ortofrutta), butcher (macelleria), baker (panificio) and fishmonger (pescheria), and questioning why Canadians started shopping at supermarkets in the first place.

  • Prepare to pay differently

When you go out to eat, you’ll quickly be confronted with a minefield of social norms that are very different from back home in Canada — and I’m not only talking about Italians’ famously late meal times.

Italians do not tip, except for truly exceptional service — a small cover charge will be added to your bill instead. Water is seldom free, and usually fizzy. And once you place your order, say goodbye to your waiter: you’ll never get a second drink, but you’ll also never be interrupted with a mouth full of food again.

In general, Italian restaurants let you enjoy your food at your own pace. That means hailing the waiter when you need something, and going up to the counter to pay, rather than waiting for a bill.

READ ALSO: 13 ways to make your life in Italy easier without really trying

You’ll find, by comparison to Canada, Italian restaurants are remarkably affordable. It’s just one of the ways Italy tends to value things differently than Canada.

Photo by Marco Bertorello / AFP

Rent, and many home goods like bedsheets and baking pans, will seem to cost a fortune by comparison to Canada. But a lot of the things that make life in Italy great cost comparatively little.

Train tickets, fresh food, and local restaurants are so cheap, we never feel as though we can’t afford them. And for the cost of a €2 coffee, I can take a seat in any piazza — and enjoy people-watching in some of the world’s greatest public spaces for an entire afternoon.

  • Brace yourself for the weather

If you’re like me, you may come to Italy to escape Canada’s harsh winters. But something potentially worse is waiting for you here — the fatal heat of an Italian summer.

Nothing can prepare a Canadian for the oppressive heat and mugginess of Italy in July and August, made worse by clamouring crowds in many tourist hotspots. There’s a reason many Italians take this time to flee to the beach or the mountains.

Italian summers are also, sadly, only getting worse. In many parts of Italy, they come with dangerous wildfires or crippling droughts that will have you wondering if the end is truly nigh. In Veneto, where I live, they are also accompanied by plagues of mosquitoes and other insects — and no, Italians have inexplicably not all adopted window screens, bug spray or netting in response.

READ ALSO: ‘Five ways a decade of living in Italy has changed me’

Though some will complain, Italians are by and large shockingly immune to this heat. In fact, it seems they train for it all year. In April, when temperatures regularly climb to 20 degrees at noon, you’ll still find people wearing puffy jackets. Italians will don heavy scarves and toques when it’s still 10 degrees in December. When it comes to fashion, seasonality is more important than temperature.

My advice to newcomers from Canada? Abandon all shame for the first year, at least. Wear shorts when it’s deemed gauche, sweat profusely in public, and complain frequently about the heat. But eventually, you’ll need to find a strategy to survive — even if it’s just a return flight to Canada, where the snow is just starting to melt.