Travelling overseas – What you need to know about insurance:

Your bags are packed and you’re ready to go, but before you step outside your door – have you thought about what medical coverage you’ll need when travelling abroad? These days, insurance is part and parcel of our daily lives; whether it’s to protect your house and contents, your loved ones in the event of tragedy, or your health and well-being while in a foreign country.  Here you go if your travelling overseas – what you need to know about insurance.

Local Healthcare Coverage

If you’re looking at local healthcare coverage, you’re likely going to weigh up three options:

  • Free, state-funded health cover
  • Compulsory state provided insurance
  • Optional or mandatory private medical insurance coverage

Choosing an option that’s best for you really depends on the country you’re moving to. For example, the NHS in the UK can provide both tourists and expat workers with fantastic care at virtually no cost. In France, the national state health insurance scheme, Couverture Maladie Universelle, provides excellent coverage for the compulsory deductions applied to employee wages, and in the US, the Affordable Care Act has now made it a requirement that all US citizens and residents must hold private medical insurance.

For some travelers, they may be able to rely on reciprocal agreements that allow citizens of one country to access medical care in foreign countries, such as those from the European Union whose European Health Insurance Card access grants them easier access to care in 28 EU countries. Australia also holds a number of reciprocal agreements with 11 countries like the UK, Ireland and Belgium. Each reciprocal agreement is different, so always check with your local authority to determine the level and total period of cover your country’s agreement provides.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is a common product offered to anyone travelling to a foreign country and generally covers a variety of incidents that can happen while away. Usually, you can expect travel insurance to cover you with:

  • Repatriation costs
  • Emergency medical expenses, or necessary medical evacuations
  • Accidental death and dismemberment
  • Flight cancellations
  • Travel delays

These types of policies are typically geared towards short holidays and, depending on the plan purchased, they will likely cover you for a period of up to three months (although some annual 12 month plans are available). Travel insurance plans generally only offer emergency medical coverage and will come with lower coverage limits than local or international plans – simply put, these plans are made to help you get well enough to fly home.

The benefits of these plans are their prices; travel insurance plans charge lower premiums than international insurance ones, so they are better suited to the short term and budget-conscious travelers. Things to consider when looking at travel plans is that they may not cover pre-existing conditions, some regions have higher premiums, and many insurers will not reimburse the cost of the plan should you cancel your trip before you go.

As with any insurance related purchase, it pays to read the fine print.

International Insurance Solutions

International plans are more comprehensive insurance solutions that are designed specifically for expats. Available in a number of cost tiers, you can expect an international insurance plan to feature:

  • Extensive medical coverage in both your home country and abroad
  • Ability to add optional extras such as dental or maternity care at an extra cost
  • A wider choice of private and semi-private hospitals, medical staff and care options

These plans are perfect for expats living and working abroad, or those who frequently travel abroad from their home country and want one single policy to cover them wherever they go. While international insurance plans do not cover transport mishaps like flight cancellations or lost luggage and travel document costs, they will provide you with a lot more than just coverage for emergency medical care while abroad.

Things to keep in mind when considering an international insurance plan are their costs, as they will cost more than travel and local insurance policies. You may also want to be sure that the countries you expect to visit are included in your plan, what the deductible and co-payments may be, whether 24/7 support is free and/or readily available worldwide, and whether or not the plan will cover pre-existing conditions.

Which is right for me?

When thinking about what coverage option is right for you, you’ll really need to consider how long you’re going for and why, what the local healthcare coverage is like, how much you’re comfortable spending, and what government requirements you might need to meet.

About the author

Arnold Smith

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