REST INSURED

by Ani Ivanova

Buying a life or accident insurance policy in Bulgaria is no different from your own country, but mind the small print

So you haven't had time to buy a life insurance policy before arriving here? Sit back and prepare to spend hours in front of the Internet - choosing an insurer is one of the toughest consumer decisions you will face.

The Oxford Business Group claims there are about 30 insurers on the market. Local branches of reputable international companies compete with domestic players. Most companies handle commercial and liability insurance but about a dozen offer life insurance policies.

Their web pages should provide you with the information you need. If you opt to call or visit them, you should have no problem in finding English-speaking employees.

However, any insurance-savvy consumer should prepare to make many choices along the way. Insurers' products resemble the choices you face when ordering in an Onda coffee bar: espresso, cappuccino, white or brown sugar, no sugar, milk, skimmed milk, no milk, cream, veggie cream, no cream at all etc... The permutations and choices are many and varied.

So, start with the type of life insurance you're seeking: short term, long term, risk, endowment or credit. If you're uncertain about something, seek clarification from the insurer. Just like in any other country, packages are flexible and should be tailored to meet your individual needs. For instance, your life insurance policy could cover risks such as death but also permanent or temporary disability due to accident or acute illness - or a combination of all the above. If you would rather make an investment, ask for details on this type of life policy. In general, it's best not to skimp on life insurance. And, obviously - like so much else in life - the best cover comes at a higher price.

You may also want to consider accident insurance products valid for people on temporary stays in Bulgaria and/or travelling to other countries. Possible policies can cover a variety of misfortunes and accidents: temporary or permanent disability, urgent medical treatment, dental surgery, repatriation and other necessities. Make sure you are aware of whether you will be reimbursed or will be provided with worldwide professional assistance. If the latter, carefully
note and safeguard the telephone number you need to call in case you need help.

To finalise a policy, you need to visit your insurer in person. As previously stated, negotiations will be undertaken in English, but if possible, bring along a Bulgarian friend who can interpret the finer
points for you.

You will need similar papers to those in your own country: a valid identity document, either your passport or lichna karta. You will also have to fill out a medical declaration. Higher premiums, generally the ones exceeding 10,000 leva, mean you will be asked to undergo additional medical examinations and tests. And you could be required to answer questions about your current earnings.

Your policy is a legal contract. So, before you sign it, discuss every detail with your dealer: risks covered, financial conditions, terms of validity, exclusions and liabilities. For instance, it's important that your cover begins from the moment you sign the preliminary contract.

You should also establish in which currency you will have to pay your premium and clarify the frequency of payment, annual or monthly, and the method of payment - by cash or by bank transfer.

Finally, bear in mind that once you buy your policy in Bulgaria, any subsequent claims should be made with the insurer in this country.

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