It’s important to be insured while away from your home country. But, travel insurance and health insurance aren’t the same thing – in fact, they’re very different. Which one should you buy before starting your journey?
Are you a holidaymaker travelling abroad for a few weeks ? Or, perhaps you are moving abroad for a longer period of time, maybe for work or personal reasons ?
Either way, you may typically need to consider what would happen if you needed medical attention while abroad – and then put in place the most appropriate form of health insurance.
Without having the most appropriate health insurance whilst abroad, if you fall ill or need emergency treatment (for example, following a road accident), in most cases you will be responsible for paying for all your medical costs.
Without health insurance, this can work out to be very expensive, as many countries do not offer state provided healthcare.
So, what are your health insurance options?
There are typically two different health insurance options for holidaymakers and expats – travel insurance and international health insurance. There is often confusion between the two, so here we explain what the differences are.
Travel insurance is designed to meet the needs of holidaymakers as well as people travelling on a gap year or similar. It typically provides protection against the risks faced by someone travelling, such as loss of luggage, flight cancellation, and emergency medical treatment.
With the latter element of cover, the travel insurance is typically designed to pay for the medical costs associated in making you well enough to be repatriated (i.e. returned to your home country). Your medical treatment, if necessary, can then continue on your home soil. Cover ceases once you are back in your country of residence.
There are varying levels of cover and types of policy, all designed with the traveller in mind. Compared to international health insurance, however, the amount of cover provided for medical costs is limited to emergencies only i.e. it does not provide long term medical treatment.
The most important distinction which should be clear is that travel insurance is aimed specifically at holiday makers rather than long-term expats living abroad. It will usually not cover you in your country of residence and proof of travel dates (passport stamps / flight boarding stubs) are sometimes needed upon claim. Yes a travel policy is generally cheaper than IHI, but it’s not advisable to rely on this type of cover for the long-term care because the level of medical cover is generally very low.
At J&C Services, our trusted travel insurance provider is World Nomads, get a quote here
International health insurance
This health insurance cover may also typically be known as IPMI – international private medical insurance – and is designed to meet the specific medical needs of expats and people who are living abroad for a prolonged period of time (usually more than 6 months).
Expat health insurance typically provides cover for all medical costs (excesses may apply of course), both routine and emergency – costs which you would typically have to meet yourself without cover. These could include things like pregnancy and out-patient costs (e.g. physiotherapy for a broken leg) as well as treatment for more serious things such as cancer, and organ transplants.
Unlike travel insurance, international private medical insurance typically covers all medical conditions (some exceptions may apply), whether an emergency or not. And it will continue to pay for your medical costs (up to plan limits) until you are well again.
There are different levels of IPMI cover available, meaning you can match the plan to meet your health insurance needs – and your budget.
For example, at J&C Services, we offer a choice of levels of international health insurance for expats and their families:
- Our two Essential cover plans provide you with access to the best private medical healthcare in our region (Lao, Thailand, and more)
- Our Elite plans are designed for expat families who tend to relocate regularly and so need worldwide healthcare protection.
Which Coverage Should I Buy?
If you primarily reside in your country of birth and occasionally take trips abroad, stick with temporary travel insurance: it will provide all the coverage you need to access emergency health care services during your vacation, with added bonus such as protection against theft and the ability to recoup costs in the case of travel cancellations.
On the other hand, if you live abroad as an expat or travel so frequently that you need constant, running travel insurance, an expat-specific health insurance plan is your best option: giving you general as well as emergency coverage abroad, and offering administrative support for health care needs outside your home country. Many expats are given a health care plan as part of their employment package, but beware: not all of these plans cover medical expenses outside the country of expatriation. If you travel often or would like protection when returning home to visit friends and family, it’s important to have an individual health insurance plan with worldwide coverage.
Be sure you understand exactly what is and is not covered under a policy before purchasing and review your policy carefully before leaving for your destination. You may be able to find a policy that offers both travel and travel medical insurance so spend some time researching your options.
In a Nutshell
1. There are important differences between travel insurance and travel medical insurance.
2. Be sure to research both types to understand how to ensure you are fully protected.
3. Carefully consider when and where you are traveling and assess potential risks.
4. Carefully consider the length of your trip and activities you have planned.
5. Do not let budget be your deciding factor when purchasing insurance. Accidents and emergencies are much more expensive!
Still unsure as to whether you need travel insurance or health insurance ? Call our dedicated team on 020 77 100 200 or email us to firstname.lastname@example.org.