Expats in Morocco: Take healthy level of cover

Currencies Direct July 15th 2008 - 2 minute read

Britons looking for overseas property are focusing on a new favourite – but health experts have warned them to be well covered in case ill health should blight their trips to the sun.

Demand for foreign exchange is increasingly pointing to Morocco as an emerging “in” spot. The “surprising” development, according to foreign exchange specialist Currencies Direct, which has reported a surge in demand for the Moroccan Dirham, is not just due to cheap property- an ­excellent climate and a double taxation agreement with the UK are other attractions.

Mark O’Sullivan, director of trading at Currencies Direct, said: “Morocco benefits from coasts on the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, giving the growing number of retirees that we have witnessed purchas­ing property there a choice of dramatic beach locations. However, it is essential that retirement-age Brits obtain private health insurance, as the health service has a long way to go before it meets European standards.”

Infant mortality, the World Health Organisation’s principal measure of standards of healthcare, stood at 47 per 1,000 live births in 2000.

The mortality figure for England and Wales that year was 5.6. Average life expectancy in Morocco in 2000 was 69.7 years, almost 10 years less than for England and Wales.

Improvements will have been made in the past eight years, but medical facilities outside the main towns are basic compared with Europe.

And the language barrier may be hard to overcome for non-French-speakers.

David Axtell, the Middle East manager of insurer ­Interglobal, said a particular growth in new housing for expatriates had been seen in Marrakech, where medical facilities were less good than those in more developed areas in and around Casablanca, Tangier and Kenitra.

“There can be a great ­disparity in the level of care available,” he said. “However, the strong French influence manifests itself in the quality of specialists and in commercial links between hospitals in both countries.”

Local insurance companies mopped up most business, although some French expatriates arrived with cover in place, Mr. Axtell said. He added: “The local schemes are typically ‘country-only’ and represent good value, albeit with some restrictions.”

The low prices came about through price-fixing with local hospitals and medical providers – or “preferred provider” plans in industry jargon.

Stephen Walker, an insurance adviser with the Brighton-based Medical Insurance ­Services, emphasised the need for good ­emergency evacuation and repatriation cover.

Emergency cases where airlifts are requested and deemed medically necessary go mostly to France or Spain.

With Moroccan health services below Western “comfort” levels, evacuation cover was doubly important, he said.

Although some initial emergency medical treatment may be given free, British nationals are likely to be charged for most expenses incurred in Morocco, including tests and investigations, medication and overnight stays in hospital, whether state or private.

Seeing a family doctor can come as a financial shock to those used to a “free” NHS.

The vast bulk of insurance claims have nothing to do with emergency evacuation, but revolve around the humdrum world of infections, minor injury and gut trouble.

But costs in this area can mount alarmingly. A patient with a cut to the leg, for ­example, might have to pay for the cost of the GP consultation, tetanus injection and a course of antibiotics, as well as bandages and dressings.

 

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Currencies Direct

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